Nudges – the subtle manipulation of options to steer people’s decision-making in specific directions said to be in their best interests – have been embraced by governments around the world as preferable to more heavy-handed or coercive regulation of behaviour. This chapter discusses several philosophical issues with nudges, including the ignorance on the part of policy-makers regarding individuals’ true interests (the epistemic issue), the effect on autonomy of policy tools that bypass individuals’ deliberative processes (the ethical issue), and the possible deleterious effects of nudges on decision-making processes (the practical issue). This chapter also addresses the more general question raised by nudge policy about the proper role of government in the self-regarding decisions of individuals, and suggests ways to improve deliberative processes without co-opting them.
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