How Do Rules Fail Us?

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Fixing Our Broken Systems.

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About Barry Schwartz's TEDTalk

Psychologist Barry Schwartz makes a passionate call for practical wisdom as an antidote to a society gone mad with bureaucracy. He argues that rules often fail us, incentives backfire, and the key to rebuilding our world is practical, everyday wisdom.

About Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz studies the link between economics and psychology, offering startling insights into modern life. His research has addressed morality, decision-making and the varied inter-relationships between science and society. One of his books, The Costs of Living, traces the impact of free-market thinking on the explosion of consumerism. It explores the effect of the new capitalism on social and cultural institutions that once operated above the market, such as medicine, sports and the law.

"Rules are like a road map that get you to the right city, but not the right street." — Barry Schwartz i i

"Rules are like a road map that get you to the right city, but not the right street." — Barry Schwartz Asa Mathat/TED hide caption

itoggle caption Asa Mathat/TED
"Rules are like a road map that get you to the right city, but not the right street." — Barry Schwartz

"Rules are like a road map that get you to the right city, but not the right street." — Barry Schwartz

Asa Mathat/TED

In his 2004 book The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz tackles one of the great mysteries of modern life: Why is it that societies of great abundance — where individuals are offered more freedom and choice than ever before — are now witnessing a near-epidemic of depression? Conventional wisdom tells us that greater choice is for the greater good, but Schwartz argues the opposite: He makes a compelling case that the abundance of choice in today's western world is actually making us miserable.

Both books level serious criticism of modern western society, illuminating the under-reported psychological plagues of our time, but they also offer concrete ideas on addressing the problems, from a personal and societal level.

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The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

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The Costs of Living

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