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To serve as reference comparators to the political economy of behavioural public policy that I will present in the rest of the book, I will review the principal alternative (partial) frameworks that have been introduced into the field of behavioural public policy. I present the conceptual requirements of the most influential approach to date - i.e. libertarian paternalism, applications of which are known as nudges. I move on to several of the alternative frameworks that have been developed to meet major criticisms that have been waged against nudges - namely coercive paternalism (or shove policy), and the nudge-plus and boost strategies. All of these approaches aim at correcting perceived behavioural limitations on the demand side. I then introduce a framework that instead attempts to tackle the egoistic exploitation of the behavioural influences from the supply side - i.e. behavioural regulation, or the so-called budge approach. However, since budges are one of the two main arms of my political economy of behavioural public policy, a large part of a whole chapter (Chapter 9) is devoted to them, and thus their consideration in this chapter is quite brief.
In addressing the question of how firms and governments can seek to manipulate behavior, this chapter considers a wider range of perspectives than the “Nudge” approach popularized by Thaler and Sunstein and the “Boost” approach that has recently focused on enhancing decision-making skills rather than on exploiting “supposedly irrelevant factors” that make consumers “predictably irrational.” It thus covers how shopping mall and in-store shopping environments are designed to divert attention to keep shoppers shopping via the “Gruen transfer” process. The chapter also covers the use of product-proliferation strategies aimed at creating “confusopoly” markets and devious strategies such as teaser offers and the shrouding of product add-ons. The highly influential “principles of persuasion” offered by Cialdini are considered, along with the role of sales scripts, emotion-triggering strategies and systems aimed at inducing “ego-depletion” to drive customers to spend more than they had planned. Finally, the chapter introduces economists to the notion of “demarketing,” i.e., strategies for dealing with time-wasting “customers” and excess demand for public services.
Recently several authors have proposed proxies of welfare that equate some (as opposed to all) choices with welfare. In this paper, I first distinguish between two prominent proxies: one based on context-independent choices and the other based on reason-based choices. I then propose an original proxy based on choices that individuals state they would want themselves to repeat at the time of the welfare/policy evaluation (confirmed choices). I articulate three complementary arguments that, I claim, support confirmed choices as a more reliable proxy of welfare than context-independent and reason-based choices. Finally, I discuss the implications of these arguments for nudges and boosts.
Pablo Paniagua and Veeshan Rayamajhee (2021) propose an Ostromian polycentric view on coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) preventative measures co-produced by the state and citizens. I argue that we should also use another Ostromian approach – ‘crafting of institutions.’ Focusing on the crafting of cognitive institutions allows us to understand the co-production of virus containment in all its complexity. Combining the ‘crafting cognitive institutions’ and ‘boosting’ approaches will allow for the creation of institutionally and behaviorally informed anti-COVID policy interventions in line with polycentric pandemic governance.
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