Thursday, November 01, 2012

Do Nudges Work With Teenagers? and a Quibble with the LA Times

Recently, my family took a tour of a leading Los Angeles school and we saw the following nudge presented on each outdoor lunch table.  It says;  "Most people clean up after themselves".   It would interest me if my UCLA Anderson colleague Noah Goldstein views this to be an effective nudge for those ages 14 to 18?

Los Angeles-20121101-00196.jpg

Switching subjects, the LA Times Editorial Writers are trying to parlay Hurricane Sandy into climate change action with their own nudge.   Yes,  there may be a silver lining of disasters but is the LA Times telling the truth when it writes;

"But property damage from Sandy is estimated at $20 billion, and it's just one storm; climate change will ravage infrastructure along the coasts, burn up forests and homes, and wreck crops, just for starters. The cost of adapting to a warmer world — building sea walls and levees, constructing dams, moving homes and businesses to safe ground — will be breathtaking."

I don't believe that the last sentence is true.  We are always rebuilding our cities and infrastructure. Nothing lasts forever and the opportunity to build again offers the chance to incorporate new engineering and design ideas.  Buildings have a lifespan of around 60 years.  Given that we didn't anticipate climate change in 1952, we have built the wrong infrastructure for the new normal.  Given that the U.S economy is stagnant, climate change actually creates a Tom Friedman style imperative to build anew and could actually create the Keynesian Stimulus that Krugman cries out for.    We do need to be smart about where we build and how we build but we are always building. The LA Times forgets that in every market any $ spent is $ that somebody else collects to pursue their vision of the good life. Perhaps the Editorial Writers at the LA Times should return to UCLA for an economics refresher?

I recognize that the editors of the LA Times are engaging in hyperbole to try to nudge climate change forward but that is no excuse for presenting bad economics.