Poke me again and I’ll Nudge you back to the Stone Age


Recently I have received some complaints from students who were disappointed that I chose to accept the most kickass job known to man, Czar of All Things, rather than sticking around your dumpy school. Truth is, I spent about five minutes, 57 seconds between Elena introducing me at HLS and Obama (who I once had a say in hiring, FTW) conferring me with the power of a regulatory god. Do you really miss me that much, law students? Was it really necessary for one of you to have poked and messaged me on Facebook, incorrectly stating that you could “nudge” me?

Maybe you really do need some teaching. First of all, a nudge is not a poke. A nudge is way, way cooler. It’s when the government manipulates your psyche to make you believe you are making an independent choice, when you are really just following its whim. And by its whim, I meant mine, because I am the law now, bitches, thanks to my having invented the word “nudge”. It’s all in my brilliant book, conveniently titled Nudge, being read by everyone from the next British Prime Minister (who I know will be elected because I will nudge our foreign policy to make the Brits love him) to New York Times columnist David Brooks. And I know he’s awesome because he writes for the New York Times, to which I have also contributed.

So here’s how this is gonna work: now that I’m Regulatory Super-Czar, the first company I am going after is Facebook. First, that new design truly sucks. Where are my groups? Who is this loser in my newsfeed…oh, whoops, I meant “stream”. Screw that. Second, Mark Zuckerberg truly needs to be nudged out of the belief that he is the God of us, for he blasphemeth and denyeth My Dominion on Earth.

Third, and finally, I don’t want any of you punk-ass kids confusing a poke with a nudge again. A Facebook poke is how awkward teens and twenty-somethings (and an increasing number of sad thirty-somethings, too) attempt to flirt with one another in the absence of social skills. Cass Sunstein, a consummate playa until he bagged the hottest thing this side of humanitarian intervention theory (woot!), does not need to hide behind a computer screen when he meets a woman. Cass Sunstein comes right out and nudges. Nudging is how you rule the world.

Some of you smartasses might be thinking “But Cass,” (by the way, that’s Czar Cass to you now) “didn’t you co-write Nudge with Richard Thaler? In Prospect‘s list of the top public intellectuals of 2008, there was even a little illustration of you two dancing together”. First of all, haters, thanks for noticing that Prospect ranked me the number three public intellectual in the world (that Thaler’s image was dancing on the page was merely a tribute). Maybe you also noticed that Newsweek named me one of the most influential people of the year – without so much as mentioning a certain Chicago economist once? And where, pray tell, is he right now, at this very moment? He sure as shit isn’t living it up in the administration like me. Data-monkeys are no material for Nudger-in-Chief.

So in conclusion, class, quit your poking, your hating, and your tripping. The only one in this country who’s got a license to Nudge is me. Maybe if you work up the worthiness to get invited into Obama’s posse, I’ll give you the privilege of getting nudged all over the squash court by me. Until then, enjoy living in my shadow. Sunstein ouuut.

Cass Sunstein ’78 is head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

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