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Behavioural economics tends to go hand in hand with libertarian paternalism, which is the idea that we guide behaviour to certain ends without forbidding anything.

Behavioural economics tends to go hand in hand with libertarian paternalism, which is the idea that we guide behaviour to certain ends without forbidding anything.

 

But what about going further and using it to create self-directing normative behaviour (to coin an ugly phrase)? Think of the Dutch idea of removing or reducing traffic furniture and signals.

 

This puts the responsibility back with the communities involved – drivers slowing down not because of sanctions, but because of concern for pedestrians and wariness of askance looks from passers by.

 

People going round a roundabout

 

We know that certain sorts of sanction and rule-enforcement make people think of decisions as bearing economic rather than human cost. And we know that how we perceive others to perceive us is a big influence on how we behave. So why not harness these insights to put power back with communities where we can?

 

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