Behavioural Public Policy

Behavioural Public Policy

Since the publication of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, the government has been keen to use evidence from behavioural economics to influence public policy in areas such as health, the environment and education; in 2011 David Cameron even introduced a so-called ‘Nudge Unit’ into Number 10. Here it is questioned whether behavioural insight is a passing trend, whether the state has any business trying to influence individual behaviour, and how ‘nudging’ could produce tangible benefits in health, the environment, education and other areas.

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    The challenges associated with using measures of ‘happiness’ for public policy purposes cannot be ignored by government

The challenges associated with using measures of ‘happiness’ for public policy purposes cannot be ignored by government

The growing acceptance of subjective wellbeing (or ‘happiness’) measures for public policy purposes has proved controversial. Ian Bache and Louise Reardon review the issues and argue that the extent to which this agenda has taken hold is overstated and concerns are mostly based on a particular (narrow) interpretation of the purpose of the wellbeing agenda.

Around the world governments and international organisations have […]

The ‘nudge’ agenda is at the forefront of contemporary economic debate for good reason, but it is not yet clear that it can be applied in straightforward way in all circumstances

Behavioural economists from LSE and elsewhere have recently examined the ‘nudge’ research agenda and its limits in a special journal issue. Here, Joan Costa-Font, David Just, Barbara Fasolo and Nick Powdthavee, argue that, although appealing and policy relevant, more research is required. Behavioural economics has passed the stage of having to convince other economists of its value. Today, it is a […]

The launch of ‘Behavioural Public Policy’: The reflections of Gus O’Donnell, Julian Le Grand, Drazen Prelec and George Loewenstein

A new book of essays on behavioural public policy, a field that explores ways of changing behaviour to achieve the aims of public policy, was launched last week at the LSE. In this article, the editor of the volume, Adam Oliver recounts some of the comments and discussion that emerged from the event, which included reflections by Gus O’Donnell, Julian […]

The richness of personal interests: A neglected aspect of the nudge debate

Within the ‘nudge’ debate there is one assumption that goes unquestioned by advocates and critics alike: that people regularly and predictably make bad decisions. Policymakers necessarily substitute their own idea of what people’s interests are and then use nudges to steer the person in that direction. Mark White argues that only we can know when we’re making bad choices according to our own interests, […]

From Nudging to Budging: Behavioural economic-informed regulation of the supply side

Many politicians and policy makers in several countries have embraced the concept of ‘nudging’ in shaping policy and influencing citizens’ behaviour. Adam Oliver argues that we should refrain from limiting behavioural economic policy to nudge-style antiregulatory demand-side interventions. Behavioural economic-informed regulation of the supply side – or, in short, budge policy – is worthy of consideration. Over the last decade, probably the […]

David Cameron should pay attention to the “Happiness” of British citizens; it will help him win the next general election

Research by Federica Liberini, Eugenio Proto and Michela Redoano finds that Subjective Wellbeing (or ‘happiness’) measures have a good explanatory power in predicting voting behavior/ They also show that voters are not able to separate the source/cause of their wellbeing when they decide whom to vote for. Their results imply that governments should produce better and more comprehensive measures for wellbeing, and they […]

Minimising misery: A new strategy for public policies instead of maximising happiness

Research conducted by Orsolya Lelkes found that observable personal characteristics are more strongly correlated with unhappiness than with happiness. The findings suggest that unhappiness could be regarded as an undesirable personal condition as such, similar to poverty or social exclusion. Preventing avoidable unhappiness should therefore be given priority as a policy goal.  Should public policy focus on minimizing unhappiness rather […]

Nudges manipulate, except when they don’t

‘Nudging’, or using insights from behavioural science to influence behaviour, has become popular with policymakers in the UK and elsewhere. However, some take issue with the manipulative aspect of nudges. Exploring the ethics of nudging, Martin Wilkinson defines the circumstances where it may be considered manipulative and whether this is bad in itself. Nudging uses the clever tricks of modern psychology […]