Rethinking the role of experts and expertise in behavioural public policy

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Abstract

Nudge and behavioural public policy tools have won support from governments across the world for improving the effectiveness of public interventions. Yet nudge still attracts strong criticisms for promoting paternalism and manipulation as legitimate government actions. To move beyond this divide, this paper offers a comprehensive reorientation, which is necessary because the intellectual foundations of the policy are at fault. A more secure foundation can be achieved by expanding the cognitive scope of behavioural policy, and ensuring that it does not rely on the narrow assumption that intuitive reasoning is flawed and that expert advice is always preferable. This shift in the cognitive range of nudge moves behavioural policy toward citizen reflection and initiative, pointing away from expert-led interventions. It amounts to more than incremental advances in nudge practice. As a result, nudge can escape the charge of not respecting individual autonomy. What we call 'nudge plus' would link more closely with other types of governmental intervention that embrace citizen involvement.

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John, P., & Stoker, G. (2019). Rethinking the role of experts and expertise in behavioural public policy. Policy and Politics, 47(2), 209–226. https://doi.org/10.1332/030557319X15526371698257

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