Nudging and Manipulation



Behavioural economics and social psychology have shown that humans have all sorts of psychological quirks. Policy makers have become enthusiastic about taking advantage of these quirks through what Thaler and Sunstein call ‘nudges’. This article asks: when would nudging be manipulative? The article has six parts: (1) publicity and transparency, which claims that Thaler and Sunstein's own attempt to deal with evil nudges is inadequate; (2) manipulation and autonomy, where the nature and wrongness of manipulation is connected to a conception of autonomy; (3) the perversion of the decision-making process – a piecemeal approach, which sorts nudges into easy and hard cases and assesses attempts to pick out certain methods, such as temptation, as manipulative; (4) the perversion of the decision-making process – general accounts, which shows why we do not have a clear, complete and correct account of what such perversion is; (5) intentions and nudging's escape clause, where it is shown that governments that nudge as Thaler and Sunstein would wish do not manipulate because they do not have the intention to manipulate; and (6) consensual manipulation, where it is claimed that manipulation can, with the right consent, be consistent with autonomy.