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Is Soft Paternalism Ethically Legitimate? - The Relevance of Psychological Processes for the Assessment of Nudge-Based Policies

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  • Mira Fischer

    (University of Cologne)

  • Sebastian Lotz

    (Stanford University)

Abstract

In this article we develop a taxonomy of behavioral policy measures proposed by Thaler and Sunstein (2008). Based on this taxonomy, we discuss the ethical legitimacy of these measures. First, we explain two common reservations against nudges (choice architecture) rooted in utilitarian and Kantian ethics. In addition to wellbeing, we identify freedom of action and freedom of will (autonomy) as relevant ethical criteria. Then, using practical examples, we develop a taxonomy that classifies nudges according to the psychological mechanisms they use and separately discuss the legitimacy of several types of behavioral policy measures. We hope to thereby make a valuable contribution to the debate on the ethical legitimacy of behavioral policy making.

Suggested Citation

  • Mira Fischer & Sebastian Lotz, 2014. "Is Soft Paternalism Ethically Legitimate? - The Relevance of Psychological Processes for the Assessment of Nudge-Based Policies," Cologne Graduate School Working Paper Series 05-02, Cologne Graduate School in Management, Economics and Social Sciences.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgr:cgsser:05-02
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. C. Christian von Weizsäcker, 2002. "Welfare Economics bei endogenen Präferenzen: Thünen-Vorlesung 2001," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 3(4), pages 425-446, November.
    2. Bykvist, Krister, 2010. "Can Unstable Preferences Provide A Stable Standard Of Well-Being?," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 26(01), pages 1-26, March.
    3. Crusius, Jan & van Horen, Femke & Mussweiler, Thomas, 2012. "Why process matters: A social cognition perspective on economic behavior," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 677-685.
    4. On Amir & Dan Ariely & Alan Cooke & David Dunning & Nicholas Epley & Uri Gneezy & Botond Koszegi & Donald Lichtenstein & Nina Mazar & Sendhil Mullainathan & Drazen Prelec & Eldar Shafir & Jose Silva, 2005. "Psychology, Behavioral Economics, and Public Policy," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 443-454, December.
    5. Vernon L. Smith, 1965. "Experimental Auction Markets and the Walrasian Hypothesis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 73, pages 387-387.
    6. Sabine Frerichs, 2011. "False Promises? A Sociological Critique of the Behavioural Turn in Law and Economics," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 289-314, September.
    7. Paul Rozin & Sydney Scott & Megan Dingley & Joanna K. Urbanek & Hong Jiang & Mark Kaltenbach, 2011. "Nudge to nobesity I: Minor changes in accessibility decrease food intake," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(4), pages 323-332, June.
    8. Schnellenbach, Jan, 2012. "Nudges and norms: On the political economy of soft paternalism," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 266-277.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. A taxonomy of behavioural interventions
      by Chris Sampson in The Academic Health Economists' Blog on 2014-05-30 10:00:52

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    Cited by:

    1. Schubert, Christian, 2017. "Green nudges: Do they work? Are they ethical?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 329-342.
    2. Christian Schubert, 2015. "On the ethics of public nudging: Autonomy and Agency," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201533, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).

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