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The Choice Architecture of Choice Architecture: Toward a Nonpaternalistic Nudge Policy


  • David Colander


  • Andrew Qi Lin Chong


This The goal of nudge policy is generally presented as assisting people in finding their “true” preferences. Supporters argue that nudge policies meet a libertarian paternalism criterion. This claim has provoked complaints that nudge policies are unacceptably paternalistic. This paper suggests that by changing the explicit goal of nudge policy to a goal of making the choice of choice mechanism an explicit decision variable of the subgroup being affected by the nudge one can have a non-paternalistic nudge policy that better fits with the values inherent in Classical liberalism. The goal of non-paternalistic nudge policy is not to achieve a better result as seen by government or by behavioral economists. The goal of non-paternalistic nudge policy is to achieve a better result as seen by the agents being nudged as revealed through their choices of choice mechanisms. Examples are given of how nonpaternalistic nudge policy will and will not differ from paternalistic nudge policy.

Suggested Citation

  • David Colander & Andrew Qi Lin Chong, 2009. "The Choice Architecture of Choice Architecture: Toward a Nonpaternalistic Nudge Policy," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0916, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mdl:mdlpap:0916

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2003. "Optimal Defaults," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 180-185, May.
    2. Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2008. "How are preferences revealed?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1787-1794, August.
    3. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
    4. Cass R. Sunstein & Richard H. Thaler, 2003. "Libertarian paternalism is not an oxymoron," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 48(Jun).
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Nudge nudge, wink wink
      by Kevin Denny in Geary Behaviour Centre on 2009-10-25 14:18:00

    More about this item


    libertarian; paternalism; nudge policy; choice architecture; behavioral economics;

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General

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