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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

The Enzymatic Effect of Behavioural Economics – Theoretical and Empirical Findings from Regulating Life Style Risks

Public Policy
Social Welfare
Welfare State
Kathrin Loer
FernUniversität in Hagen
Kathrin Loer
FernUniversität in Hagen

If authorities take on risk regulation, they have theoretically a broad spectrum of regulative instruments at their disposal. But, since bans and strict legal restrictions lack in political appeal, the search is on for instruments or regulative techniques are to be found that both subtly but effectively push or nudge people to take risk avoiding decisions. Of course, it is not a priori determined which risks should be avoided – the regulator’s perspective might differ from the citizen’s perspective, which is crucial for policy-making. In public health (being a typical policy field in need of regulation) most developed countries face rising numbers of non-communicable diseases (NCD) which are causing enormous expenses. National and supra-national policies start to tamper with individual lifestyle decisions on which the regulators blame the rise of NCDs. To start to change those decisions, behavioural economics is more and more finding its way into such policies and combing them with existing tools of regulation. The paper tests a new model that integrates behavioural economics into hitherto existing schemes of regulatory instruments and emphasizes the enzymatic effect of behavioural economics. Empirically it tests several new approaches in public health policy-making for its effective shift (or not) to new instruments. In so doing, the paper shows how the framing of risks (here: lifestyle risks) influences the design of new – behaviourally inspired – regulative instruments. It therefore focusses on the paradigm of the state that “empowers its citizens” and is accompanied by a responsibility shift which we typically find in several fields of social policy. Obviously this development changes the relationship between state and society.
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