The Rise of Behavioral Insights and Interventions in Public Policy
The rise of behavioral insights and interventions as a novel mode of public policy is a puzzling case. Although the basic principles were developed in the 1950s, behavioral approaches have only recently begun to gain importance across OECD countries. The reputation and degree of institutionalization of behavioral economics in Great Britain is, however, still unmatched in countries such as Germany. To explain these developments, three arguments are presented: First, behavioral economics gains politico-epistemic authority by combining political practicality with experimental expertise. Second, under the heading of libertarian paternalism behavioral ideas are reframed as solutions to recent policy failures, promising to reconcile opposing views on the relationship between science, politics and citizens. Third, differences between Great Britain and Germany are related to domestic cultures of expertise influencing how knowledge claims are publicly validated and valued. Explaining the rise of behavioral approaches presents a further step towards a comparative sociology of expertise.
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