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Behavioural Economics and Policy making,Learning from the Early Adopters


    (Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin. Trinity College, Dublin)

This paper critically examines initial applications of Behavioural Economics (BE) to policymaking. It focuses primarily but not exclusively on what can be learnt from the early adopters of policies inspired by BE, notably America and Britain. BE is defined by its inductive scientific approach to economics, which can produce empirical demonstrations that are persuasive to policymakers facing practical problems. The analysis identifies three routes via which BE has influenced policy: (1) the theory of libertarian paternalism (“nudges”), (2) the provision of toolkits for policymakers seeking behavioural change, and (3) the expansion of the skill-set of applied economists (and scientists in related disciplines). The effectiveness of each route is assessed, in terms of the likelihood of successfully integrating scientific advances with policy development. The analysis concludes that (3) is the only route that can adapt to the ongoing and rapid evolution of what is a young science. Successful policy development is more likely where there is expert input and the capacity to engage in applied experimentation, piloting and evaluation. The implication is that countries, including Ireland, are more likely to reap the benefits of BE if they create an active and effective interface between applied economists and policymakers.

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Article provided by Economic and Social Studies in its journal Economic and Social Review.

Volume (Year): 43 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 423-449

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Handle: RePEc:eso:journl:v:43:y:2012:i:3:p:423-449
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  1. Stefano DellaVigna, 2007. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," NBER Working Papers 13420, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Huck, Steffen & Zhou, Jidong, 2011. "Consumer behavioural biases in competition: A survey," MPRA Paper 31794, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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  4. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory Of Fairness, Competition, And Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868, August.
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  8. Lunn, Pete, 2012. "Can Policy Improve Our Financial Decision-Making?," Papers EC8, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  9. Matthew Bennett & Unknown & Amelia Fletcher & Liz Hurley & David Ruck, 2010. "What Does Behavioral Economics Mean for Competition Policy?," CPI Journal, Competition Policy International, vol. 6.
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