Libertarian paternalism and nudging: on alluring concepts and public policy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter examines recent enthusiasm for libertarian paternalism and nudging in both the academic literature and policy circles. The overall claim is that they are “alluring concepts” and, as a result, we have become too captivated by them and that this may be obscuring both the wider picture regarding the legitimate scope of government action, as well as other more practical philosophical concerns. As such, we would do well to largely abandon the dual nudge and libertarian paternalism project as it is currently approached. Four reasons are offered for this view. First, labeling – as libertarian paternalism or nudge – is not enough to do the justificatory work required to tell us if particular interventions are either permissible or preferable. Second, we risk missing important aspects of the use of the behavioral sciences in law- and policy-making if we focus on nudges or libertarian paternalistic interventions. Third, there are unanswered questions about the evidence required to implement nudges and other libertarian paternalistic policies. Finally, despite purportedly challenging traditional philosophical, legal, and economic conceptions of the rational actor, both nudges and libertarian paternalism appeal to a version of rationality which does not exist.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Paternalism
EditorsKalle Grill, Jason Hanna
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781315657080
ISBN (Print)9781138956100
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018

Publication series

NameRoutledge Handbooks in Applied Ethics


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