Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro) testified today before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight in support of Senate Bill 1690, An Act relative to government efficiency. The bill is aimed at encouraging state government to apply behavioral science when designing and implementing policy, programs, and initiatives to improve government efficiency.
“Behavioral science provides exciting opportunities to improve government services and public programs that advance efficiency while saving taxpayer dollars,” said Senator Cyr. “With the field of behavioral economics receiving international recognition in recent weeks, it’s time to apply those same lessons to policymaking here in Massachusetts.”
The field of behavioral economics has recently been in the headlines; Richard H. Thaler, the founder of the field, was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science on Monday, October 9th. Readers may be familiar with Thaler’s work through Nudge, a best-selling book he co-authored with Cass Sunstein in 2007.
The bill encourages government agencies to identify policies, programs, and operations where applying behavioral science may yield substantial improvements in public welfare, program outcomes, and cost effectiveness. It also directs government agencies to rigorously test and evaluate the impact of behavioral science insights, as well as strengthen governmental relationships with the research community to better use empirical findings from the behavioral sciences.
Thaler’s work on the predictable irrationality of human behavior in the field of behavioral economics can have a great impact on founded government programs. While traditional economics and policymaking has seen individuals as rational agents who are self-controlled and optimize self-interest, Thaler’s work and others have revealed that humans are motivated to conform to the behavior of others and that we are very responsive to accountability.
Thaler has advanced the notion that by better understanding human rationality and decision-making, governments can improve the efficiency of a broad range of programs, from voter registration to retirement savings plans for public employees.
Senator Cyr’s bill intends to incorporate the lessons of behavioral economics into government practices. It would encourage Massachusetts state agencies to join the U.S. federal government and countries around the world in taking behavioral science research into account when making public policy, improving service delivery, and efficiency significantly.
Cyr filed the legislation in January 2017 after participating in the Ideas42 Conference in Washington D.C. hosted by the Obama White House in December 2016, to promote behavioral science in government. Cyr also studied the science of behavior change and choice architecture with Dr. Todd Rogers while participating in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive State and Local Government program in June 2017.
To learn more, visit www.ideas42.org.