Summary of Constitutional Limits to Paternalistic Nudging

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Constitutional Limits to Paternalistic Nudging summary
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“Paternalistic nudging” is a form of “choice architecture” that you may not realize affects many of your day-to-day decisions. Take, for example, the graphic warnings on cigarette packages: They steer many people away from smoking, via personal choice, despite smoking being completely legal. In this selected chapter, University of St. Gallen law professor Anne van Aaken introduces various paternalistic measures and analyzes their effectiveness. She asks whether the ends justify the means and if the means are lawful under the German Constitution. getAbstract recommends this thought-provoking article to anyone with interests in psychology, autonomy and the rights and responsibilities of government.

About the Author

Anne van Aaken, PhD, is a professor of law and economics, legal theory, public international law, and European law at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.



A “paternalistic nudge” is any measure that attempts to guide you toward a decision that will enhance your well-being without prohibiting your “freedom of choice.” A liberal society champions autonomy and reflective thought, allowing citizens the right to self-determination. This applies even when individuals make self-destructive decisions. Four questions form a framework for examining the constitutionality of paternalistic measures:

  1. Does the measure have a “legitimate aim”? – Regulations that protect the public aren’...

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