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ECPR 50th Anniversary Fund

Behavioralizing Europe: How Behavioral Economics Entered EU Policymaking

Political Economy
Public Policy
European Union
PW Zuidhof
University of Amsterdam
PW Zuidhof
University of Amsterdam

If there is one economic policy paradigm that clearly benefited from the crisis, it would be the booming field of behavioral economics. Emphasizing cognitive bias and the limited rationality of economic behavior, it has great promise for offering policy guidance in a post-crisis world. It is therefore not surprising that in the past years behavioral economics has made steady inroads into EU policymaking, most notably in the areas of consumer policy and health and food safety.
This paper evaluates the rise of behavioral economics as a policy paradigm within EU policymaking. After briefly presenting its key approaches and insights, it first charts how behavioral economics has slowly filtered into EU policy. In what policy areas did it emerge and what insights were imported? It secondly maps the type of actors and organizations that have been instrumental in disseminating behavioral economics. How did these actors translate theoretical insights into EU policy? The final aim of the paper is to determine to what extent behavioral insights are changing the policy outlook of the EU. How are behavioral approaches affecting the political rationality of EU policy and to what extent do they present a break with reigning liberal and neoliberal policy views within EU policymaking. The paper concludes by arguing that while behavioral approaches to EU policy remain modest to date, they present a formidable shift in the political rationality of EU governance with potentially far-reaching political implications.
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