Via Debra Cassens Weiss at the ABA Journal in Posner Questions Behavioral Economists and Proposed Credit Regulator we go to federal appeals judge Richard Posner and his WSJ editorial Treating Financial Consumers as Consenting Adults in which he criticizes a “paternalistic” Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act of 2009 asking:
“Is the choice among such alternatives really beyond the cognitive competence of the average home buyer? Is three minutes the limit of his attention span?“
As you should know, Judge Posner, and as the 140 character limitation on messages at the popular Twitter microblogger amply prove, the answer to your question is “yes”. How long have you been a judge that you do not know this? Just look at the TV fare that your “average man” watches – as Berlusconi has said, the intelligence level of a 14-year old marks the average citizen.
Judge Posner queries us in closing:
“Behavioral economists are right to point to the limitations of human cognition. But if they have the same cognitive limitations as consumers, should they be designing systems of consumer protection?“
Judge Posner, by the same logic of your reasoning, should YOU be challenging the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act of 2009 and judging the nation’s laws?
By your very challenge, you are implicitly using “your reputation as an expert” to challenge something that “other experts” want to implement. If you challenge their right to call upon that expertise, then that same challenge applies to your own expertise as well.
Indeed, by the same faulty reasoning that you employ, we might as well be living in caves, as some of the groups that are terrorizing the world apparently desire – why strive to improve the world and make the world better? It will all turn out differently in the end anyway.
No, in spite of all human limitations, history proves that it is better that we as humans and as a nation continue to try to improve things rather than to let everything fall into a heap just because we are not perfect.
Hence, in spite of all the cognitive limitations that experts also have, it is surely desirable to have experts try to make sensible rules about contracts which your average layman has as good as NO CLUE about. We call that an ultimate form of “consumer protection”.