After nudging: the ethical challenge of post-pandemic policymaking in the UK

Dan Degerman*, Elliott Johnson, Matthew Thomas Johnson, Matthew Flinders

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


This article explores the interplay between crises, opportunities and democratic change in the United Kingdom. A vast body of scholarship underlines that crises open ‘windows of opportunity’ that can occasionally lead to radical shifts in the role of the state and the design of public policy. Even when a radical shift occurs, however, it has often proved temporary, with relationships and processes quickly reverting to pre-crisis modes once the immediacy of the crisis abates. This may not be true of our present period of crisis following the COVID-19 pandemic. The consequences of decades of underinvestment in infrastructure and increasing concentration of resources in a small minority of individuals and organisations are being exacerbated by climate change, geopolitical conflict and new waves of disease. The challenge for policymakers in the UK now is heightened by evidence that suggests that nudging, a libertarian paternalist means of promoting certain ends, is ineffective. Policymakers who have long used state neutrality between conceptions of the good as the justification for not promoting certain ends now have to confront a real ethical dilemma: coerce to achieve specific outcomes or invest in addressing the social determinants that actually affect behaviour. This article suggests that contrary to decades of opposition to redistribution among UK policymakers, only the latter is consistent with libertarian paternalism.
Original languageEnglish
Article number465
JournalHumanities & Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
Early online date29 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


Dive into the research topics of 'After nudging: the ethical challenge of post-pandemic policymaking in the UK'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this