A neglected topos in behavioural normative economics

The opportunity and process aspect of freedom

Originally published in Behavioural Public Policy

Robert Sugden has advanced various critiques of behavioural welfare economics, offering the notion of opportunity as an alternative. We agree with much of Sugden's critique but argue that his approach would benefit from a broadening of the informational base beyond opportunities to include people's concern for decision processes. We follow Amartya Sen in arguing that the process through which choices are made (process freedom) is something individuals care about beyond the availability of choice options (opportunity freedom) as they value a sense of agency. We argue that individuals’ agentic capabilities are crucial for people's process freedom and hence for their sense of agency. In the final section of the paper, we sketch the institutional implications of our argument, i.e. what a joint consideration of opportunities and agentic capabilities means for behavioural public policy.

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