Martha’s Ethics
The “Academic Playground”

New book: The Manipulation of Choice (including free chapter)

Mark D. White

ManipMy latest book, The Manipulation of Choice: Ethics and Libertarian Paternalism, was released earlier this month by Palgrave Macmillan in both paperback and hardcover. In the book, written for popular audiences, I discuss the ethical and practical problems with the idea of "nudges" as popularized by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in their book of the same name.

Walter Olson of the CATO Institute writes that "the 'libertarian paternalism' theory promises to use the state to help correct citizens' wrong decisions without asking their consent, yet also without truly entering the realm of coercion. Too good to be true? Indeed it is, as this book helps to show. Mark White gives us the sort of analysis we need to nudge back." Our own Jonathan B. Wight also comments that: "The Manipulation of Choice states that paternalists impose their own values and goals onto hapless consumers and citizens. Hence, public policies designed to correct the imperfections of behavioral irrationality are coercive. This is an important point and one that needs to be debated."

If you're interested, Palgrave has made the first chapter available for free, and I have written several blog posts recently tied into the book, including one at this blog commenting on Cass Sunstein's recent review of another book on paternalism at The New York Review of Books, and a post at Psychology Today on the nudge concept in general. (See also past posts at this blog on paternalism.)


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Congratulations, Mark! This is an important book for all of us, particularly people like me who lean towards the desire for nudges. Is learning self-control the answer? Is that an option for everyone? I look forward to this discussion and congrats. -- JBW

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