Handbook of Behavioural Change and Public Policy
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Handbook of Behavioural Change and Public Policy

Edited by Holger Straßheim and Silke Beck

Behavioural change has become a core issue of public policy. Behavioural instruments such as ‘nudging’ apply insights from behavioural economics and behavioural sciences, psychology and neurosciences across a broad range of policy areas. Behavioural insights teams and networks facilitate the global spread of behavioural public policies. Despite an ever-growing amount of literature, research has remained fragmented. This comprehensive Handbook unites interdisciplinary scholarship, with contributions critically assessing the state and direction of behavioural public policies, their normative implications and political consequences.
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Chapter 23: Macro libertarianism and micro paternalism: governance in an age of nudging

Roger Tyers


This chapter reviews some of the recurrent critiques of the nudge policy paradigm and libertarian paternalism. These critiques broadly fall into two camps: nudging is seen as either too liberal, or too paternalistic. It offers some suggestions in terms of political and cultural context as to why the criticism has fallen into either the former or latter camps, in the United Kingdom and United States respectively. The main section of the chapter argues how libertarian paternalism might be viewed as both (too) liberal and (too) paternalistic. By reference to literature from anti-politics and de-politicization, nudging is posited here as liberal and ‘de-politicized’ at the macro-level of business regulation, whilst also being paternalistic and ‘re-politicized’ at the micro-level of individual behaviour change. The chapter ends by offering suggestions for how behavioural economics could be used to inform more effective macro-level regulation as well as individual micro-level nudges.

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