Behavioral Economics and Food Policy: The Limits of Nudging

in Nudging Health: Health Law and Behavioral Economics, John Hopkins University Press 2016.

8 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2017

See all articles by Andrea Freeman

Andrea Freeman

University of Hawai'i William S. Richardson School of Law

Date Written: May 2, 2014

Abstract

Behavioral economics represents only one tool among many available to the government to combat obesity and improve health outcomes. For example, the USDA uses high-impact marketing strategies, such as partnerships with fast food companies, to increase consumption of subsidized commodities, which include dairy, corn, wheat, meat, and soy. These tactics depart significantly from the principles of choice architecture, which is a form of libertarian paternalism that focuses on the environments in which people make choices. Dividing food policy into three categories — hard paternalism, aggressive soft paternalism, and gentle soft paternalism — highlights the differences in the government's approaches that depend on its objective. This categorization suggests that financial concerns, such as subsidies and industry goodwill, compel the use of strategies proven to influence consumer behavior. Health concerns, in contrast, tend to generate less impactful policies. The chapter interrogates the disproportionate harm that structural constraints inflict on socially marginalized communities and concludes by proposing a shift in federal food policy to a harder paternalistic framework.

Suggested Citation

Freeman, Andrea, Behavioral Economics and Food Policy: The Limits of Nudging (May 2, 2014). in Nudging Health: Health Law and Behavioral Economics, John Hopkins University Press 2016., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3023703

Andrea Freeman (Contact Author)

University of Hawai'i William S. Richardson School of Law ( email )

Honolulu, HI 96822-2350
United States

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