In an article for the Telegraph, Philip Johnston explains about Nudge Theory. Nudge theory was developed by the American academic Richard Thaler and has been put into practice by UK prime minister David Cameron’s Behavioural Insight Team at a tune of £500,000 a year.
The basic idea is that government can, and ought, to nudge us to be better people. “Effectively,” Johnston explains, “it is social engineering without anyone noticing, a nanny state where nanny stays hidden behind the curtains. Rather than ordering people around or leaving them to behave in ways that will damage their health or wealth, the state can gently manoeuvre them into behaving sensibly.”
David Brooke’s advocated something similar in his bestseller The Social Animal, which I reviewed here, and which also captured the imagination of Britain’s impressionable Prime Minister. Consistent with Nudge Theory, Brooke’s recommends that the government goes about making us better people with a kind of side-ways approach, prodding us in the right direction or propping up the web of relationships in the private sector. He uses the phraseology “limited but energetic” to describe the government’s role in enhancing social mobility and promoting the greatest happiness for the greatest number.