This is a legacy website for the Behavioural Design Lab. It is no longer updated.
Behavioural Design Lab Subscribe Bird Contact

Why Nudge?: The Politics of Libertarian Paternalism

Economics, Policy, Psychology, principles

Amazon Description

Based on a series of path breaking lectures given at Yale University in 2012, this powerful, thought-provoking work by national best-selling author Cass R. Sunstein combines legal theory with behavioural economics to make a fresh argument about the legitimate scope of government, bearing on obesity, smoking, distracted driving, health care, food safety, and other highly volatile, high-profile public issues. Behavioural economists have established that people often make decisions that run counter to their best interests – producing what Sunstein describes as “behavioral market failures”. Sometimes we disregard the long term; sometimes we are unrealistically optimistic; sometimes we do not see what is in front of us. With this evidence in mind, Sunstein argues for a new form of paternalism, one that protects people against serious errors but also recognizes the risk of government overreaching and usually preserves freedom of choice. Against those who reject paternalism of any kind, Sunstein shows that “choice architecture” – government-imposed structures that affect our choices – is inevitable, and hence that a form of paternalism cannot be avoided. He urges that there are profoundly moral reasons to ensure that choice architecture is helpful rather than harmful – and that it makes people’s lives better and longer.

Related content

The Behavioral Economics Guide 2015

Misbehaving – The Making of Behavioral Economics

Council ‘nudge units’ needed to tackle rising demand, say consultants

© 2015 Warwick Business School and the Design Council