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From the bottom up: Influencing citizen behaviours to achieve policy outcomes

Influencing citizen behaviours to achieve policy outcomes


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Governments seek to help us make the right choices to recycle, to eat healthy, to stop smoking, or read to our children. To do this, they often employ traditional policy levers to influence us – by taxing "bad" choices to make them more expensive, subsidising "good" alternatives or even by restricting, through laws and regulations, the choices available to us.

These levers do help. Crime causes serious harm to individuals and society, and laws, enforcement and punishment are necessary to combat them. Similarly, governments can keep our markets dynamic and fair by preventing and punishing monopolistic behaviour or price collusion.

But traditional policy levers – taxation, subsidies, laws and regulations – can have their limitations. The challenge for the public sector, in an era of fiscal and regulatory restraint, is to find effective, cheap and politically acceptable strategies to achieve its goals, particularly goals that are driven by individual choices.

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