How governments influence behavior: code, nudge or notice?

Ryan sez, "Here's a new essay entitled 'Code, Nudge, or Notice?' The essay compares side-by-side three ways that the government tries to influence citizen behavior short of making it illegal. It uses contemporary examples, like the graphic warnings the FDA wants to put on cigarettes, to make the point that it sometimes very hard to sort regulations into neat categories like 'architecture,''libertarian paternalism,'or 'mandatory disclosure'(code, nudge, or notice). Instead, officials should focus on the difference between helping people and hindering them. Along the way, I make the point that all of forensics may be a kind of 'code'that turn an ordinary location into a crime scene---sort of like putting a traffic camera up at an intersection only after someone runs the red light. This is a work in progress; reader thoughts and examples warmly welcome."


  1. No mention of things like harassing black youths on the street by the police, random stop-and-searches, inequality and bias in various prosecutions where the victim isn’t of the majority, that sort of thing? I think those sort of government behaviours should be included. They’re quite effective. 

  2. I would also add discussion of the “soft monopoly” technique used to protect the market position of politically-favored businesses. For example, here in North Carolina, Time Warner owns almost every cable franchise in the state. The law technically allows for competing franchises, but it attaches a maze of mapping and reporting requirements developed by Time Warner to discourage competition. It’s essentially a government-granted monopoly protected by thickets of red tape instead of a bald mandate.

  3. …short of making it illegal

    What a strange question to address. In the US, at least, they just make it illegal. Eventually, everything will be illegal I think.

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