Libertarian Paternalism

… a core concept used in Policy Analysis and Process and Atlas101

Concept description

Wikipedia describes libertarian paternalism, a concept that has emerged from Thaler and Sunstein’s theory of nudging, as “the idea that it is both possible and legitimate for private and public institutions to affect behavior while also respecting freedom of choice.”

David Brooks wrote in an 2013 Op-ed for the New York Times:

“We’re entering the age of what’s been called “libertarian paternalism.” Government doesn’t tell you what to do, but it gently biases the context so that you find it easier to do things you think are in your own self-interest.

“Government could design forms where the default option is to donate organs or save more for retirement. Individuals would have to actively opt out to avoid doing these things. Government could tell air-conditioner makers to build in a little red light to announce when the filter needs changing. That would make homes more energy efficient, since people are too lazy to change the filters promptly otherwise. Government could crack down on companies that exploit common cognitive errors to induce you to pay more for your mortgage, bank account, credit card or car warranty. Or, most notoriously, government could make it harder for you to buy big, sugary sodas.”

See also Communication Nudges and Behavioural Economics.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Models of Decision Making (core topic) in Policy Analysis and Process and Atlas101.


Wikipedia, Libertarian paternalism, at, accessed 5 September 2018.

David Brooks, The Nudge Debate, The New York Times., 8 August 2013, at, accessed 5 September 2018.

Page created by: Alec Wreford and Ian Clark, last modified 5 September 2018.

Image: David Allen,, at, accessed 5 September 2018.