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.
- Libertarian paternalism
- Public health policy