Nudge, Choice Architecture, and Libertarian Paternalism

13 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2010

See all articles by Pierre Schlag

Pierre Schlag

University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: April 6, 2010


In Nudge, Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler describe how public and private institutions can improve on individual choices by nudging individuals into making selections that are right for them. Rejecting the Econ-101 caricature of the rational utility maximizer as inaccurate, Sunstein and Thaler apply the insights of behavioral economics to show how institutions can improve the delivery of services. Moving beyond attempts to remedy individual cognitive errors, Sunstein and Thaler also argue for "libertarian paternalism" - which they herald as the "Third Way." This Review assesses their claims critically, finding their development of "nudge" and "choice architecture" to be welcome additions to public-policy analysis, but ultimately concluding that "libertarian paternalism" is a politically impoverished vision.

Keywords: Behavioral Economics, Libertarian Paternalism, Choice Architecture, Nudge, Cognitive Errors, Sunstein, Thaler, Asymmetric Paternalism

JEL Classification: A10, A11, D70, D73, H10, H11, K10, Z1

Suggested Citation

Schlag, Pierre, Nudge, Choice Architecture, and Libertarian Paternalism (April 6, 2010). Michigan Law Review, Vol. 108, pp. 913-924, 2010, U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-14, Available at SSRN:

Pierre Schlag (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

UCB 401
Boulder, CO colorado 80309
United States
303-492-3110 (Phone)
303-492-1200 (Fax)

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