Bad Defaults With Good Intentions

Check out this TED Talk with Shlomo Benartzi titled “Saving for tomorrow, tomorrow.”

Although the video is about setting aside money, watch how he cites an example of changing from opt-ins to opt-outs in the name of a common good. Germany’s 12% organ donation rate is minuscule compared to Austria’s 99%. The difference is that in Germany citizens opt-in to the program. In Austria citizens opt-out.

Austria looks progressive here, but it didn’t sit well with me. I don’t want someone else making decisions for me. Germany’s 12% actually WANT to be organ donors. Austria’s 99% just didn’t look at the fine print.

The intentions are good, but with savings and organ donation I don’t want to opt-out. I want to opt-in. I want to explicitly make that decision for myself, not be the victim of someone else’s good intentions.

When marketers at companies do things similar to this people waste no time saying how unethical it is. How are opt-out retirement plans and organ donation wishes any different?

Related: What you lose when you sign that organ-donor card