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Libertarian Paternalism and Choice Architecture – Nudging People into the “Right” Direction

One classical example for nudging is a small soccer goal in a urinal. This little measure alone leads men to aim better and reduces the amount of urine on the floor of public men’s room by 80%. This sounds like a fun example but nudges can be used in all kinds of settings.


Nudging is a term from behavioral economics. It is a method to influence people’s behavior in a predictable manner, without the use of imperatives or prohibitions or the change of economic incentives.


The so called “libertarian paternalism” and the according choice architecture nudges people gently into a direction which is, from the viewpoint of the actor, good for them. The crucial point is that this happens without the restriction of peoples’ freedom.


A critical examination of this new policy instrument seems to be indicated, since it suggests a “superior knowledge” of the actors.


Who is allowed to use this instrument to influence others? Who determines the “wise” decision? What considerations define a “smart” decision? How to ensure that nudges are used openly and transparently to prevent manipulation and paternalism? What should be the overall goal of nudging interventions (for example, social welfare, and personal autonomy)? What to do when the overall goals are mutually exclusive?



A selection of literature has been compiled by our team of the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics in the following list. You can use EconBiz to research further information and literature.

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The project group of the Gymnasium Wellingdorf is working on the topic “Libertarian Paternalism and Choice Architecture – Nudging People into the “Right” Direction”. The project group is supported by an expert team of the YES! 2016.


The topic “Libertarian Paternalism and Choice Architecture – Nudging People into the “Right” Direction” is presented by the editorial staff of Wirtschaftsdienst and Intereconomics. The journals are published by the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.

Pictures (from top to bottom): (c) Shutterstock / lightspring, (c) Gymnasium Wellingdorf