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On the ethics of public nudging: Autonomy and Agency

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  • Christian Schubert

    () (University of Kassel)

Abstract

Nudges, i.e., low-cost interventions that steer people’s behavior without compromising their freedom of choice, are the key contribution of ‘Libertarian Paternalism’ (LP) to public policy. They typically work through either harnessing or responding to people’s cognitive biases and heuristics – which is why they have been criticized for being manipulative and for compromising personal autonomy. We argue, though, that (i) nudging hardly compromises autonomy, properly understood, and that (ii) it rather risks undermining people’s agency, i.e., their ability to engage in creative self-constitution over time. This reorientation has farranging implications for the ethics of behavioral policies in general and LP in particular.

Suggested Citation

  • 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).
  • Handle: RePEc:mar:magkse:201533
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    Cited by:

    1. Malte F. Dold, 2018. "Back to Buchanan? Explorations of welfare and subjectivism in behavioral economics," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 25(2), pages 160-178, April.
    2. Schubert, Christian, 2017. "Green nudges: Do they work? Are they ethical?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 329-342.

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