Let the Chips Fall! : Public Nudging Arrangements, Coercion, and the Role of Independent Shopkeepers

Matti Häyry*, Johanna Ahola-Launonen, Tuija Takala

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Nudging, according to its inventors and defenders, is supposed to provide a non-coercive way of changing human behavior for the better—a freedom-respecting form of “libertarian paternalism.” Its original point was to complement coercive modes of influence without any need of justification in liberal frameworks. This article shows, using the example of food-product placement in grocery stores, how this image is deceptive. Although nudging practices may not restrict the freedom of consumers, nudging arrangements by public health authorities do restrict the freedom of shopkeepers in standard liberal senses. Libertarianism cannot justify this coercion, and the creed is best left out of the equation as the ideological ruse that it, in this discussion, is. Other liberal theories can justify the coercion, but on grounds that can also be applied to other methods of public health promotion by subsidies and regulation. This result reaffirms that nudging should be seen to complement, not to replace, those other methods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-538
Number of pages14
Issue number4
Early online date12 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Libertarian paternalism
  • Nudging
  • Public health policy


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