Our Thoughts

The Economist Who Realized How Crazy We Are

Economist Richard Thaler has just published an entertaining professional memoir entitled “Misbehaving”. The memoir holds my interest because it tells the story not just of Thaler’s career but also of the field of behavioral economics – the study of actual human beings instead of the classical economic models of rational choice. I first encountered Thaler in a magazine article years ago as I and several others were coming up with speakers for the 1999 NAPFA National Conference. Long story short, Thaler was a keynote at the conference, and created a lot of buzz among the attendees.

Fast forward….Thaler is a tenured professor at the University of Chicago and president of the American Economic Association. His ideas as expressed in “Nudge,” the 2008 bestseller he co-authored with Cass Sunstein, have influenced public policy in both the U.S. and Europe. His study (with his former student, Shlomo Benartzi, now at the University of California Los Angeles) making the case for automatic enrollment has transformed the design of 401(k) retirement plans at American corporations.

If you are interested in learning more about Thaler, click here for a recent column by author Michael Lewis (“Liar’s Poker” and other books) and here for a recent Q&A with author Justin Fox (“Myth of the Rational Market”).