The media need a nudge: the government using ‘behavioural science’ to manipulate the public isn’t a recent development: nudging has been happening since 2010

Politics and Insights

8+Ways+to+Protect+Yourself+From+Emotional+ManipulationLast year I wrote a critical articleabout the government’s Nudge Unit. The ideas oflibertarian paternalismwere popularised around five years ago by the legal theorist Cass Sunstein and the behavioral economist Richard Thaler, in their bestselling bookNudge. Sunstein and Thaler argue that we are fundamentally “irrational” and that many of our choices are influenced negatively by “cognitive bias.” They go on to propose that policymakers can and ought to nudge citizens towards making choices that are supposedly in their best interests and in the best interests of society.

But who nudges the nudgers? Who decides what is in our “best interests”?

And how can our interests be so narrowly defined and measured in terms of economic outcomes, within a highly competitive, “survival of the fittest” neoliberal framework? The Nudge Unit is concerned with behavioural economics, not human happiness and wellbeing.

The welfare reforms, especially the increased…

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