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

Soft Interventionism: A Hayekian Alternative to Libertarian Paternalism

Nick Cowen, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln, UK, , Aris Trantidis, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln, UK,
Suggested Citation
Nick Cowen and Aris Trantidis (2021), "Soft Interventionism: A Hayekian Alternative to Libertarian Paternalism", Review of Behavioral Economics: Vol. 8: No. 3-4, pp 341-360.

Publication Date: 09 Dec 2021
© 2021 N. Cowen and A. Trantidis
Behavioral Economics,  Bounded rationality,  Evolution,  Biases,  Heuristics,  Asymmetric information,  Imperfect information,  Happiness,  Political economy,  Lawmaking,  Legislatures,  Public administration,  Regulation,  Rule of law,  Rulemaking
JEL Codes: D62, D80, D91, B53
Nudgeslibertarian paternalismHayekmarket processAustrian economicsautonomyclassical liberalism


Open Access

This is published under the terms of CC-BY.

In this article:
1. Introduction 
2. Rationality: True and False 
3. Constraints on Intervention 
4. Entangled Externalities and Internalities 
5. Suicide and Overdose Reduction 
6. Conclusion 


Are behavioral interventions consonant with a free society? Rizzo and Whitman argue that behavioral interventions aimed at addressing self-harms are premised on an unrealistic neoclassical account of rationality. We show that the rejection of neoclassical assumptions is warranted but does not exhaust the case for what we call “soft interventionism.” Following Hayek’s emergent account of human action and defense of a defined role for legislation to address social challenges in commercial spontaneous orders, we argue that soft interventionism is a less intrusive form of state intervention to tackle the blurred boundaries between externalities and internalities. Nudges can be justified so long as the interventions are proportionate, based on subsidiarity, and scientifically informed.



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.