Skip to main content
×
×
Home

The Definition of Nudge and Libertarian Paternalism: Does the Hand Fit the Glove?

  • Pelle Guldborg Hansen (a1)
Extract

In recent years the concepts of ‘nudge’ and ‘libertarian paternalism’ have become popular theoretical as well as practical concepts inside as well as outside academia. But in spite of the widespread interest, confusion reigns as to what exactly is to be regarded as a nudge and how the underlying approach to behaviour change relates to libertarian paternalism. This article sets out to improve the clarity and value of the definition of nudge by reconciling it with its theoretical foundations in behavioural economics. In doing so it not only explicates the relationship between nudges and libertarian paternalism, but also clarifies how nudges relate to incentives and information, and may even be consistent with the removal of certain types of choices. In the end we are left with a revised definition of the concept of nudge that allows for consistently categorising behaviour change interventions as such and that places them relative to libertarian paternalism.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The Definition of Nudge and Libertarian Paternalism: Does the Hand Fit the Glove?
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The Definition of Nudge and Libertarian Paternalism: Does the Hand Fit the Glove?
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The Definition of Nudge and Libertarian Paternalism: Does the Hand Fit the Glove?
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
© Pelle Guldborg Hansen 2016 This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
References
Hide All

1 Thaler, Richard H. and Sunstein, Cass R., Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Revised and Expanded Edition (New York: Penguin Books, 2009).

2 Conly, Sarah, Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), at p. 29.

3 Kahneman, Daniel, “Foreword”, in Shafir, Eldar (ed.), The Behavioral Foundations of Public Policy, (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), pp. VII et sqq., at p. VIII.

4 Lunn, Pete, Regulatory Policy and Behavioural Economics (OECD Publishing, 2014).

5 Barry Schwartz, “Why not nudge? A Review of Cass Sunstein’s Why Nudge”, 17 April 2014, available on the internet at: <http://thepsychreport.com/essays-discussion/nudge-review-cass-sunsteins-why-nudge/> (last accessed on 17 April 2014).

6 Sunstein, Cass R., Why Nudge?: The Politics of Libertarian Paternalism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014).

7 See e.g. Calo, Ryan, “Code, Nudge, or Notice”, 99(2) Iowa Law Review (2014), pp. 773 et sqq ; Henry Farrell and Cosma Shalizi, “Nudge No More”, New Scientist, 26 November 2011: <http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/new_scientist/2011/11/does_nudge_policy_work_a_critique_of_sunstein_and_thaler_.html> (last accessed on 26 November 2014); Lunn, Regulatory Policy and Behavioural Economics, supra note 4; Ploug, Thomas, Holm, Søren and Brodersen, John, “To nudge or not to nudge: cancer screening programmes and the limits”, 66(12) Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (2012), pp. 1193 et sqq ; Anthony Randazzo, “The Case Against Libertarian Paternalism”, 23 April 2013, available on the internet: <http://reason.com/archives/2013/04/23/the-case-against-libertarian-paternalism> (last accessed 26 November 2014); White, Mark D., The Manipulation of Choice: Ethics and Libertarian Paternalism (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2013); Mark D. White, “The richness of personal interests: A neglected aspect of the nudge debate”, 23 October 2013, available on the internet at: <http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/the-richness-of-personal-interests-a-neglected-aspect-of-the-nudge-debate/> (last accessed 26 November 2014); Paula Zoido-Oses, “The problem with nudge policies is that threaten our freedom to choose to act well”, 9 July 2014, available on the internet at: <http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/the-problem-with-nudge-policies-freedom-to-choose/#Author> (last accessed on 26 November 2014).

8 See also Calo, “Code, Nudge, or Notice”, supra note 7, at p. 773, 775, 783, 785, 786, and 795; Conly, Against Autonomy, supra note 2, at p. 29–31; Lunn, Regulatory Policy and Behavioural Economics, supra note 4; Farrell and Shalizi, “Nudge No More”, supra note 7; Ploug, Holm and Brodersen, “To nudge or not to nudge”, supra note 7; Sunstein, Why Nudge?, supra note 6, at p. 58.

9 See e.g. Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, supra note 1, at p. 3; and Salazar, Alberto, “Libertarian Paternalism and the Dangers of Nudging Consumers”, 23(1) King's Law Journal (2012), pp. 51 et sqq.

10 See e.g. Salazar, “Libertarian Paternalism and the Dangers of Nudging Consumers”, supra note 9; and Schlag, Pierre, “Nudge, Choice Architecture, and Libertarian Paternalism”, 108(6) Michigan Law Review (2010), pp. 913 et sqq.

11 See e.g. the debate concerning user financial incentives as nudges around Oliver, Adam, “A nudge too far? A nudge at all? On paying people to be healthy”, 12(4) Healthcare Papers (2012), pp. 8 et sqq.

12 Sunstein and Thaler, Nudge, supra note 1, at p. 8 footnote.

13 Philippe Mongin and Cozic Mikaël, “Rethinking Nudges”, (HEC Paris Research Paper No. ECO/SCD-2014-1067, 2014).

14 Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, supra note 1, at p. 8.

15 Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, (Ibid).

16 Sunstein, Why Nudge, supra note 6, at p. 64–65.

17 Mongin and Cozic, “Rethinking Nudges”, supra note 13, at p. 6 and Schlag, “Nudge, Choice Architecture, and Libertarian Paternalism”, supra note 10, at p. 917.

18 Michael M. Grynbaum, “Health panel approves the restriction on sale of large sugary drinks”, New York Times, 13 September 2012.

19 Richard Thaler, Tweet on Twitter, 31 May 2012, available on the internet: <https://twitter.com/R_Thaler/status/208273339507150849> (last accessed on 27 December 2014).

20 See e.g. Oliver Burkeman, “‘How Bloomberg's soda ban is a classic example of ‘choice architecture’’, Blog on The Guardian, 10 July 2012, available on the internet at: <http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/oliver-burkemans-blog/2012/jul/10/bloomberg-soda-ban-new-york-freedom> (last accessed 26 December 2014) and Pelle Guldborg Hansen, “The ‘Big Gulp Ban’ – a nudge or not?”, 8 October 2012, available on the internet: <http://inudgeyou.com/the-big-gulp-ban-a-nudge-or-not/> (last accessed 26 December, 2014).

21 Mongin and Cozic, “Rethinking Nudges”, supra note 13; and Sunstein, Why Nudge, supra note 6, at p. 58.

22 Hausman, Daniel and Welch, Brynn, “Debate: To Nudge or Not to Nudge”, 18 Journal of Political Philosophy (2010), pp. 123 et sqq.

23 See Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, supra note 1, at p. 6.

24 Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, supra note 1, at p. 8.

25 Hansen, Pelle Guldborg and Jespersen, Andreas Maaløe, “Nudge and the Manipulation of Choice: A Framework for the Responsible Use of the Nudge Approach to Behaviour Change in Public Policy”, 1 European Journal of Risk Regulation (2013), pp. 3 et sqq, at p. 6.

26 Mongin and Cozic, “Rethinking Nudges”, supra note 13.

27 Thaler, Richard H. and Sunstein, Cass R., “Libertarian Paternalism”, 93(2) American Economic Review (2003), pp. 175 et sqq.

28 Thaler and Sunstein, “Libertarian Paternalism”, supra note 27, at p. 175.

29 Ibid.

30 Ibid.

31 Ibid.

32 Ibid, at p. 179.

33 Ibid, at p. 175.

34 See e.g. Hausman and Welch, “Debate: To Nudge or Not to Nudge”, supra note 22.

35 Mitchell, Gregory, “Libertarian paternalism is an oxymoron”, 99 Northwestern University Law Review (2005), pp. 1245, et sqq.

36 Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, supra note 1, at p. 5.

37 Ibid.

38 Ibid.

39 Ibid.

40 Ibid.

41 Ibid.

42 Van De Veer, Donald, Paternalistic Intervention: The Moral Bounds on Benevolence, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986).

43 Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, supra note 1, at p. 5.

44 Thaler and Sunstein, “Libertarian Paternalism”, supra note 27, at p. 175.

45 Ibid.

46 Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, supra note 1, at p. 6.

47 Ibid.

48 See supra note 8.

49 Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, supra note 1, at p. 6.

50 See e.g. Mongin and Cozic, “Rethinking Nudges”, supra note 13; and House of Commons, Public Health: Twelfth Report of Session 2010-12, Vol. 1: Report. Together with Formal Minutes (Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons: Health Committee 2011), at p. 84.

51 See e.g. Rizzo, Mario J. and Whitman, Douglas Glen, “Little Brother Is Watching You: New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes”, 51 Arizona Law Review 2009, pp. 685 et sqq ; and Adam C. Smith and Todd J. Zywicki, “Behavior, Paternalism, and Policy: Evaluating Consumer Financial Protection”, George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 14-05 (2014), at p. 12.

52 See e.g. Tim Adams, “Nudge economics: has push come to shove for a fashionable theory?”, The Guardian, 1 June 2014, available on the internet at <http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/jun/01/nudge-economics-freakonomics-daniel-kahneman-debunked> (last accessed on 27 December 2014); John Tierney, “A Nudge (or Is it a Shove?) To the Unwise”, New York Times, 24 March 2008, available on the internet at <http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/24/a-nudge-or-is-it-a-shove-to-the-unwise/> (last accessed on 27 December 2014).

53 See Gupta, Anil, “Definitions”, in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (Fall 2014 Edition), available on the internet <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/definitions/> last accessed (28 December 2014).

54 Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, supra note 1, at p. 6–8.

55 Ibid.

56 Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, supra note 1, p. 4–6.

57 See also Gilovich, Thomas and Griffin, Dale, “Introduction - Heuristics and Biases: Then and Now”, in Gilovich, Thomas, Griffin, Dale and Kahneman, Daniel (eds.), Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 1 et sqq ; Peterson, Martin, An Introduction to Decision Theory, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

58 Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, supra note 1, p. 7.

59 See also Jolls, Christine, Sunstein, Cass R. and Thaler, Richard, “A Behavioral Approach to Law and Economics”, 50(5) Stanford Law Review (1998), pp. 1471 et sqq.

60 Gilovich and Griffin, “Introduction - Heuristics and Biases”, supra note 57.

61 See e.g. Kahneman, Daniel, “Maps of Bounded Rationality: Psychology for Behavioral Economics”, 93(5) The American Economic Review (2003), pp. 1449 ; and Kahneman, Daniel, Thinking, Fast and Slow, (London: Allen Lane 2011).

62 Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, supra note 1, at p. 8.

63 Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, supra note 1, at p. 6.

64 Hausman and Welch, “Debate: To Nudge or Not to Nudge”, supra note 22, at p. 126.

65 See e.g. Hendricks, Vincent F. and Hansen, Pelle Guldborg, Infostorms: How to Take Information Punches and Save Democracy (New York: Springer, Copernicus, 2014); and Sunstein, Cass R. Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

66 See e.g. Oullette, Judith A. and Wood, Wendy, “Habit and Intention in Everyday Life: The Multiple Processes by Which Past Behavior Predicts Future Behavior”, 124(1) Psychological Bulletin (1998), pp. 54 et sqq.

67 Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge, supra note 1, at p. 9.

68 Hausman and Welch, “Debate: To Nudge or Not to Nudge”, supra note 22, at p. 123–136.

69 Burns, Zach, Chiu, Andrew and Wu, George, “Overweighting of small probabilities”, in Cochran, James J. (ed), Wiley Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Science (New York: Wiley, 2010).

70 Shefrin, H. and Thaler, Richard, “The behavioral life-cycle hypothesis”, 26 Economic Inquiry (1988), pp. 609 et sqq ; Thaler, Richard H., “Mental Accounting Matters”, 12 Journal of Behavioral Decision Making (1999), pp. 183 et sqq.

71 Cartwright, Edward, Behavioral Economics (New York: Routledge Advanced Texts in Economics and Finance, 2011), p. 143147.

72 Thomas, Manoj and Morwitz, Vicki, “Penny Wise and Pound Foolish: The Left-Digit Effect in Price Cognition”, 32(1) Journal of Consumer Research (2005), pp. 55 et sqq.

73 See Huber, Joel, Payne, John W. and Puto, Christopher, “Adding Asymmetrically Dominated Alternatives: Violations of Regularity and the Similarity Hypothesis”, 9(1) Journal of Consumer Research (1982), pp. 90 et sqq ; Simonson, Itamar and Tversky, Amos, “Choice in context: Tradeoff contrast and extremeness aversion”, 29 Journal of Marketing Research (1992), pp. 281 et sqq.

74 Huber, Payne and Puto, “Adding Asymmetrically Dominated Alternatives”, supra note 73; Simonson and Tversky, “Choice in context”, supra note 73.

75 See e.g. Huber, Payne and Puto, “Adding Asymmetrically Dominated Alternatives”, supra note 73.

76 Peterson, An Introduction to Decision Theory, supra note 57, at p. 99.

77 Sen, Amartya, Collective Choice and Social Welfare (San Francisco: Holden Day, Inc., 1970), at p. 17.

78 Sunstein, Why Nudge?, supra note 6, at p. 55

79 Steffen Altmann and Christian Traxler, “Nudges at the Dentist”, (IZA Discussion Papers 6699, Institute for the Study of Labor, 2012).

80 Sunstein, Why Nudge?, supra note 6, at p. 39–44.

81 Calo, “Code, Nudge, or Notice”, supra note 7.

82 See Hansen and Jespersen, “Nudge and the Manipulation of Choice”, supra note 25.

83 Hausman and Welch, “Debate: To Nudge or Not to Nudge”, supra note 22.

84 See e.g. Ibid, at p. 126.

85 Ibid, at p. 133.

86 Hansen and Jespersen, “Nudge and the Manipulation of Choice”, supra note 25, at p. 10.

87 Ibid.

88 Hausman and Welch, “Debate: To Nudge or Not to Nudge”, supra note 22, at p. 126.

89 Sunstein, Why Nudge?, supra note 6.

90 Pelle G. Hansen, “Nudge for good”, Policy Options, 3 Jun 2013, pp. 22–23 et sqq.

91 Sunstein, Why Nudge?, supra note 6, at p. 55.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

European Journal of Risk Regulation
  • ISSN: 1867-299X
  • EISSN: 2190-8249
  • URL: /core/journals/european-journal-of-risk-regulation
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed