A few days ago, a colleague shared Katrin Bennhold’s NYTimes article, Britain’s Ministry of Nudges, with me. In it, Bennhold shows how Britain is using American behavioral science experiments to improve public policy, reduce unemployment, and increase tax revenue.
While I am thrilled about this reinvention of government services, the ethics of such experiments baffles me. Why does the world of academia always choose to experiment on the poor and unemployed without their consent? In this case, the experiments yield favorable results, but what if they did not? Who would be at fault – the scientist or the unsuspecting participant?