Tuesday, March 16, 2010

why governments matter

Can Smiley Faces (and a 14-Step Program to Stop Overconsumption) Save the Global Climate?: Scientific American:
"We make bad decisions all the time," says Sabine Marx, associate director at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University, thanks to incomplete information or other barriers to action, like high up-front costs for things like insulation. Overcoming those "doesn't mean we have to manipulate people's minds," Marx says, but rather make good decisions easier.

For example, rates of organ donation vary widely within Europe, from 100 percent in France and Poland to 17 percent in the U.K. and just 4 percent in Denmark. The difference cannot be ascribed to different cultural views about organ donation but rather whether the country in question has a policy that is opt-in (check this box if you want to donate your organs) or opt-out (check this box if you do not want to donate your organs). "We think we're rational," says economist John Gowdy of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. "But really it's the person who designs the question on the back of a driver's license who made the choice for us."