«None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.»
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Nudging as a technique got some backlash recently. Using «little nudges» to influence citizens behavior, even if it were with the best intentions and for an actually good goal, it more than a little questionable. Yeah, the «choice architecture» is always there, but if you design it, if you make certain behaviors more likely, over and beyond how the choice architecture would «normally» look, you are manipulating people.

Especially if you don’t tell them what you are doing.

You can see the consequences nicely with the Covid Nudges in Great Britain. IIRC, UnHerd did have nice postings about it, should be «The new public health despotism» and «Will nudge theory survive the pandemic?»

And yup, this isn’t about helping people to achieve their voluntary goals. This is tiling the ground to give you an uphill battle in one direction and an almost effortless walking in the other. And again, the trouble is thinking it’s for good intentions — which are worth nil, nada, zilch. Everyone, well nearly everyone, has good intentions. That’s a given. Of course people might think that using nudges to get people «vaccinated» against Covid are a good idea, if they already think that Covid «vaccinations» are a good idea. But in the end, these people want to decide what other people do with their bodies. And by using nudges, they try to bypass any argument, any legal action, and ethical deliberation.

So, yeah, nudges can be powerful, they have utility. But with any intervention, they should be only used with informed consent. The «informed» means that people have to be told beforehand that nudges are used and what is planned to achieve. And the «consent» means that people can say «no» (and no, you cannot nudge them to consent, even though defaults work very well for saying «yes» to organ donations).

Anything else is tyranny.