Review of Behavioral Economics > Vol 8 > Issue 3-4

The “Problem” Is Different and So Is the “Solution”

Shaun P. Hargreaves Heap, Kings College, London, UK,
Suggested Citation
Shaun P. Hargreaves Heap (2021), "The “Problem” Is Different and So Is the “Solution”", Review of Behavioral Economics: Vol. 8: No. 3-4, pp 327-340.

Publication Date: 09 Dec 2021
© 2021 S. P. Hargreaves Heap
Behavioral Economics,  Public Economics,  Public policy,  Democracy,  Political economy,  Rule of law,  Behavioral Decision Making
JEL Codes: D90, I31, I38


Open Access

This is published under the terms of CC-BY.

In this article:
1. Introduction 
2. Politicians’ Pragmatism 
3. Constitutional Politics 
4. Conclusion 


Rizzo and Whitman have mounted a comprehensive attack on a key theoretical underpinning of “nudging”: that we are or ought to be rational choice agents. However, I doubt their argument will persuade politicians to stop “nudging.” For the politician who cares little about whether their interventions might be paternalist, something more is needed. This is the “problem” that needs addressing. On this, R&W largely buttress their anti-“nudging” position by presenting a slippery slope argument for being predisposed against any advance in Leviathan – “nudging” included. I suggest this argument does not work – at least if, as appears to be the case, J. S. Mill is its authority. I offer instead a “solution” that turns on an argument that politics is about the selection of rules and not outcomes for specific individuals. “Nudging” does precisely the latter. Indeed “nudging” cannot be about a change in the rules because, as the proponents of “nudging” have made clear, “nudging” should not affect the decisions of rational choice agents. Therefore, if politics is about rule selection, “nudging” does not belong in politics.



Review of Behavioral Economics, Volume 8, Issue 3-4 Special Issue: Escaping Paternalism: Articles Overiew
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.