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Lunch break

I've never forgotten Stephen Waldman's admonition that "one of the great errors in modern policy is to confuse disclosure with information." The fact that we're forcing, say, credit card companies to disclose things doesn't mean anyone can understand what they're disclosing. Here, branding expert Alan Siegel shows how we can take forms that currently confuse everyone and make them crystal clear.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 24, 2010; 12:38 PM ET
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While I fully support the simplification Alan Siegel is advocating, in areas such as simplified credit card agreements, simplification is not enough. You may understand that you can opt-out of over-the-limit fees, but the default position should be that you have to opt in to being able to charge more than your credit limit. I also think there should be a limit on late fees to $15 or 25% of your balance, whichever is lower. Because I've paid a $29 late fee on a $7.82 balance. Stupid credit card companies.

But everything, and everybody, could benefit from that sort of simplification. He's doing Yeoman's work.

That being said, Ezra should at some point mention that the brilliant Thomas Dolby is and has been the Music Director for TED, and is responsible for some great music performances, and talks, at TED. I wish they'd post some of Dolby's stuff from the latest TED. I suppose I'll just have to wait.

Love me some Thomas Dolby.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 24, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

You know, I frequently want to watch these, but watching movies during lunch isn't a wise idea in my office. Is there a reason you post them at midday instead of in the evening?

Posted by: RobK_ | March 24, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

"How is it we can run the country with a 16-page Constitution, yet it takes 2,074 pages and more than 400,000 words of gobbledygook to present the Senate Health Care Bill?"

The answer, of course, is that it doesn't take 2,074 pages. In the Finance Committee, the Chairman's Mark was 200 pages, and perfectly readable. The other 1800 pages represent legislative language to amend existing code. It's not necessary for anyone but congressional staffers to read.

Beyond that, it's something of an in-apt analogy. The Constitution is a framework of limited, positive powers. It sets the ground rules, but it certainly doesn't "run the country."

Posted by: jmorton2 | March 24, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Lol I think Ezra and I have the same youtube subscriptions list.

Posted by: shadowgunman | March 24, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

This reminds me of Atul Gawande's Checklist Manifesto, in which he brings up the idea that failure happens from lack of knowledge or improper application of knowledge. Of course, credit card companies profit from consumers' failure, so they have no interest in reducing the likelihood of that. If you really want people not to fail, you have to supply them with knowledge and the ability to apply it correctly, and one good way, as Gawande suggests, are checklists. Ppeople, as trained as they might be, can't possibly know everything they need to know.

A counterexample to intentional obfuscation by the credit card companies to encourage failure and more fees is e-commerce. I'm sure Amazon invested heavily to make it very easy for people to select what they want, decide they want it, and buy.

The IRS should be interested in making it as easy as possible to pay their taxes. Every program of the gov't should serve its clients, and make it as easy for clients to get their services, as Amazon has made it easy to buy things.

Posted by: Lonepine | March 24, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

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