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Help me to help myself

Economists have come to understand that we don't always act in our own interests. Now politicians are starting to take note

By Tom Nuttall   July 2008

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H Thaler & Cass R Sunstein (Yale, £17.99)

To the contemporary list of endangered species one should add Homo economicus, or “economic man,” who for 200 years dazzled economics students with his feats of unbounded rationality and supreme self-control. Homo economicus is an abstraction used by economists in the classical tradition to predict human economic behaviour. He is a “rational maximiser,” in that in any given set of conditions, he will successfully pursue his own arbitrary goals to the furthest degree possible, unfettered by indecision, memory loss or lack of…

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