Review of Behavioral Economics > Vol 11 > Issue 2

Towards a Liberal Behavioural Political Economy: The Constitutional Approach and the Role of Capable Agency

Malte Dold, Economics, Pomona College, USA, , Paul Lewis, Political Economy, King’s College London, UK,
Suggested Citation
Malte Dold and Paul Lewis (2024), "Towards a Liberal Behavioural Political Economy: The Constitutional Approach and the Role of Capable Agency", Review of Behavioral Economics: Vol. 11: No. 2, pp 183-209.

Publication Date: 08 May 2024
© 2024 M. Dold and P. Lewis
Behavioral economics,  Procedural rationality,  Bounded rationality,  Heuristics,  Political economy
JEL Codes: B41, D4, P46
Agencybehavioural public policybehavioural political economyself-determination theorypublic deliberationBloomington School


Open Access

This is published under the terms of CC BY-NC.

In this article:
The Meaning of Behavioural Economics: Implications for Institutional Analysis and Design 
Elaborating on Autonomy: Agency and Agentic Capabilities 
The Economic and Political Conditions for Individual Agency: Empirical Insights 


This paper discusses Shaun Hargreaves Heap’s (SHH) approach to behavioural political economy. It starts with a summary of SHH’s interpretations of core findings in behavioural economics and the implications he draws for institutional analysis and design. It moves on to his arguments advocating autonomy as a fundamental normative criterion for policymaking and also explains the concept of a ‘constitutional’ perspective on behavioural public policy. The paper then expands upon SHH’s arguments in two ways. First, it elaborates on the notion of agency that we think is implicit in SHH’s writings. In this context, the paper establishes connections between SHH’s framework and self-determination theory (SDT); it argues that SHH emphasises autonomy but pays insufficient attention to two other important dimensions of agency: competence and relatedness. Second, the paper explores the institutional implications of an agentic perspective for behavioural public policy by discussing the economic and political conditions conducive to fostering people’s agentic capabilities and sense of agency. Here, the paper expands on SHH’s framework by connecting it also with the Bloomington School of political economy and the empirical literature on public deliberation. Both explore the reflexive relationship between institutional structure and individuals’ agentic capabilities that is central to SHH’s framework. By developing SHH’s analysis in these directions, this paper aspires to provide a coherent and constructive engagement with his work, thus contributing to the ongoing discourse in the field of behavioural political economy as well as enhancing our understanding of the central roles of agency, agentic capabilities, and civic engagement in the realm of policy formulation and institutional design.



Review of Behavioral Economics, Volume 11, Issue 2 Special Issue: The Contribution of Behavioral Insights to Political Economy: Articles Overiew
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.