The idea I have in mind is Nudge. This presumes that people are irrational - chapter one of Nudge is “biases and blunders” - and so their behaviour can be influenced by the right design of choice architecture.
In other words, rulers and experts know more than ordinary people.
But this is precisely the presumption which the crisis rejects. Whether you think the crisis is the result of bad or excessive regulation, incompetent and hubristic bosses, poor risk management, over-optimistic traders, or ignorance of the complexities of mortgage derivatives, the fact is the same - so-called experts are fallible. Years of experience, multi-million dollar salaries and high-flown PhDs were no guarantee at all of good judgment.
Indeed, experts might be worse than ordinary people. Take one example from Thaler and Sunstein - the question of whether people save enough for their retirement.
As they say, this is a “complex and controversial question.” Although some think people are indeed saving too little (pdf), other research suggests they’re saving enough (pdf); the retirement consumption “puzzle” is small or non-existent.
So, when it comes to financial decision-making, ordinary people might be better than experts - in the sense that matters, of making sensible provision against the future.
Which poses the question for Cameron: if ordinary people are at least as smart as “experts”, why should the latter presume to influence the former’s behaviour?