Chapter 2: Nudging before the nudge? Behavioural traffic safety regulation and the rise of behavioural economics
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Behavioural strategies are often depicted as new instruments in the regulatory toolbox that derive mainly from behavioural economics. Analysing the history of both behavioural economics and political regulation – and focusing on the example of efforts to promote traffic safety – the chapter questions and nuances this genealogy. It argues that economists’ renewed interest, from the late 1970s, in people’s actual decision-making behaviour and the emergence of behavioural policy strategies can be attributed to the same causes. On the one hand, the behavioural science movement turned behaviour into a universally accepted concept that could be used to understand human activity and, on the other, deregulation and marketization opened spaces for new strategies of government intervention, which promised to be both cost-effective and in accordance with liberal norms.

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