Italy Be-Have: Why Italy should establish a Nudge Unit

One of the strategies to free Italy from its legendary bureaucracy may lie in a new approach towards policy-making.

(Op-Ed published in Il Sole 24 Ore. He proposes the Italian government to establish an Italian Nudge Unit called ‘Italy Be-Have’.)

Recent times have witnessed a rising interest by regulators, administrative agencies as well as public administrations towards a better understanding of human behavior based on the results that decades of experimental research have produced. Behavioral research, by showing that individuals deviate in predictable ways from neoclassical assumptions of rationality, may have implications for regulatory policy and is potentially set to revolutionize the way in which policies are formulated and implemented. Thus, placing an emoticon ūüôĀ or a set of information about average consumption on a prohibitive energy bill has the potential to nudge consumers towards less energy consumption. Rearranging the display of food makes it more likely that the healthy option is chosen. ‚ÄúOpt-out‚ÄĚ mechanisms for deeming consent for automatic registration processes increases considerably the number of users registered in a certain program (e.g. organ donation or tax schemes). In a wide-range of policy fields such as energy, health, financial services, transport, experimental findings in behavioural research can be used by the Administrative and Regulatory State in connection with the traditional regulatory tools to produce behavioural change. As a result, policy makers may design effective, low-cost, choice-preserving approaches to societal problems.

It is against this backdrop that we took the liberty to propose to the Italian government to set up a Unity, to be referred to as Italy Be-Have Unit, entrusted with experimenting innovative forms of policy interventions that promise to be low-cost and effective. Two experts on behavioural-informed policymaking, Matteo Motterlini (San Raffaele, Milano and director of Cresa), Emanuele Ciriolo (EU Commission) and one data protection expert, Alessandro Spina (European Medicines Agency), support this call.

Italy is a country that could greatly benefit from a better understanding of human behaviour, including that of its own regulators.

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