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Freakonomics posts a paper by Yale’s Dean Karlan, founder of StickK.com (officially Nudge-endorsed), titled latest paper “Put Your Money Where Your Butt Is” about an experiment in the Philippines.

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Coercive power is government’s most frightening weapon (one that libertarian paternalists fear as much as libertarians), and the conventional wisdom inside and outside of academia says that bureaucracies that use this power to implement and enforce a given regulation will be more successful than those that do not.

Ironically, when looking at the data, there are a number of cases where coercion is not necessary for a successful policy (though no universal rules about when these cases occur).

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The British government has been one of the most enthusiastic and innovative advocates of nudges, and of the more general political philosophy, libertarian paternalism. One proposal currently on the table in the U.K. is a smoking license. The license would cost just 10 pounds – about the same as two packs of cigarettes, depending on the brand – but would require a form “made deliberately complex to deter people from applying,” according to the article. One of the rules of a well-designed nudge is that it should be inexpensive to avoid. Is 10 pounds and a complex form cheap enough for smokers?

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