The behavioral economics pioneer Richard H. Thaler wrote a column in the New York Times yesterday, on how people can behave irrationally in a way that leads to not so great outcomes. The column gave examples of such problems and some suggested fixes.
I posted a comment on Twitter that came across as a harsher and more dismissive critique of Professor Thaler than I intended:
Behavioral econ @R_Thaler says we are too dumb to fix our own mistakes but smart enough to fix everyone else’s
I will try to blame the rudeness on the severe 140 character limit on Twitter, combined with bad judgment and orneriness. (But I think another irrational bias is that we all tend to dismiss situational explanations for behavior like 140 character limits and to believe that everything is intentional; plus I should be held responsible anyway.)
I put the longer and politer version of the intended (unoriginal) critique –the Paradox of Behavioral Economics — into an email apology to Professor Thaler (which he graciously accepted):
What I meant was that any fix to irrational behavior would still have to be designed, approved, and implemented by other individuals who are also themselves subject to irrational biases. Sometimes the fix will be possible and a clear improvement, other times not so much.
Professor Thaler’s brand new book Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics is getting great reviews. Hopefully it will lead to a discussion of the Paradox not constrained by 140 character limits. And I am also looking for behavioral insights into how to fix my own rudeness on Twitter.