Tune in to the Governance Podcast with Professor Peter John of King’s College London, who discusses the history of behavioral economics, the limits of “nudge,” and how citizens can be empowered to “nudge” their political authorities back.  Learn more about how to enhance democratic accountability in the policy-making process from a key voice in the field.

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The Guest

Peter John is Professor of Public Policy in the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London. He was previously Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, University College London. He is known for his work on agenda-setting, local politics, behavioral interventions, and randomized controlled trials.

He is author of Analyzing Public Policy (2012), which reviews the main theories of public policy and the policy process. He has carried out empirical work on agenda-setting to find out why governments focus on particular policies, which is represented in the book, Policy Agendas in British Politics (Palgrave, 2013), co-authored with Anthony Bertelli, William Jennings, and Shaun Bevan. With Anthony Bertelli, he developed public policy investment as an approach to understanding decision-making, which was published as Public Policy Investment: Priority-Setting and Conditional Representation in British Statecraft (Oxford University Press, 2013).

He is interested in how best to involve citizens in public policy and management, often deploying behavioural interventions. He tests many of these interventions with randomized controlled trials. Some of these trials appeared in Nudge, Nudge, Think, Think: Experimenting with Ways to Change Civic Behaviour (Bloomsbury, 2011). Practical issues with the design of experiments are covered in Field Experiments in Political Science and Public Policy (Routledge, 2017). Experiments are also used to examine the impact of social media and politics in Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action (Princeton University Press, 2015), with Helen Margetts, Scott Hale and Taha Yasseri.

His current book, to be published in 2018, is a critical review of the use of behavioral public policies, called How Far to Nudge: Assessing Behavioural Public Policy (Edward Elgar).

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Skip Ahead

00:50: What is the concept of “nudge” and where did it come from?

5:05: What has your personal journey in public policy been like? Where did it start and where is it now?

10:00: How do you propose including citizens in the policy-making process?

20:00: What’s the cost of nudge plus?

30:18: How do you measure the impact of a behavioral public policy study?

31:12: How do I complain to the NHS about its services?

39:40: Is ‘nudge plus’ the best way to connect citizens with good public policy outcomes? After all, people have very little incentive to complain about government services.

44:50: Are you over-relying on the goodwill of the nudgers to create good public policy? What happens when a corporation or authoritarian government uses behavioral insights for nefarious purposes?

50:17: Can the private sector use ‘nudge plus’ to build trust with customers?

53:03: What is the future of behavioral economics as a field?

57:02: How has being interdisciplinary influenced your work?