Why don’t we nudge people toward more risk?

Most paternalistic nudges encourage more safety (or at least the appearance of safety), such as when government steers people away from trans fats with a warning label or when the transportation authority structures the contours of a road to induce drivers to slow down.  I can think of a few nudges in the direction of greater risk-taking:

1. QEII and activist monetary policy more generally.  Investment tax credits and upbeat Presidential speeches.

2. Military recruitment campaigns and ads.

3. Social norms that people should pursue the love of their life, propose marriage, have children, and so on.  

What else?

The Hansonian question is why the bias toward safety is neglected for risk-taking in these areas.  Is it a simple utilitarian standard?  Is it that these forms of risk-taking are affiliated with larger social purposes, namely ones whose relative status we are trying to boost?  Are nudges toward risk just as common as nudges toward safety, but we are less willing to describe them as such?

Risk-taking by eating dangerous food has a relatively low social status, perhaps because the gain is mostly private.  Sushi or sampling street food in exotic locales have minority or cult followings, perhaps because they are (sometimes) associated with higher class values.  Many people eat and enjoy trans fats but few people defend or elevate them.


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