The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have a fascinating new initiative. (I wrote this in in 2017 and just edited since). “Behavioral Insights and Public Policy: Lessons from Round the World.” The book which accompanies the initiative has extensive case studies. The case studies outline how behavioral insights have been deployed. This has advanced public policy. What then is the connection between behavioral insights and the OECD?
What Is Happening?
The idea is to support the adoption of best practice. This adoption had some great success. The OECD explains
“The use of behavioural economics by governments and regulators is a growing trend globally, most notably in the United Kingdom and United States but more recently in Australia, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey and the European Union.”OECD website.
It is interesting that the OECD see this as such an important way to advance welfare. This can help both economies and societies. From a fringe endeavor, behavioral economics is now quite central to the approaches of many governments. (As I have said previously I see this as excellent news.)
I also think it is interesting that they describe the approach as both behavioral insights and behavioral economics. The distinction can matter to academics but others may not care. I would say it is mostly just a question of academic boundaries. I know that some academics really hate to be called economists. Yet, others will embrace the term. Maybe the work you do is most important. What we call the work is less important. I would argue that much of what is being done could be called marketing. (That is probably the least popular term).
What Is Common Sense?
Where does behavioural economics end and good old fashioned common sense start? Designing policy and presentation that works with human nature is just sensible. This makes it a valid question: “why is this behavioral economics?” In many ways this work is just repackaging good ideas in a more palatable form. I’m all for this. Surely good old fashioned common sense suggests repackaging ideas to sell them. Why not make positive change seem as palatable as possible? Making change easy is key to making change happen. As is making change simple. Finally, so is making change appealing.
Behavioural Insights And The OECD
I would suggest looking at what is being done. There are accompanying videos tailored to different world regions. These explain the ideas behind, and benefits of using, behavioural insights in public policy. (Most of the ideas apply in the commercial and not-for-profit worlds too).
In conclusion, I’m excited by what the OECD are up to, and look forward to hearing more.
For more on public policy see here.
Read: (2017) Behavioural Insights and Public Policy: Lessons from Round the World. OECD Library. See more at: http://www.oecd.org/gov/regulatory-policy/behavioural-insights.htm