The ethics of innovation: Changing behavior through enablement

Lukas Fuchs (University College London)

Besides coercion, incentive and nudge, I consider enablement to be a further way of changing how people act. I will follow this definition of Enablement:

A enables B to pursue action X if, any only if,   

  1. A adds the option to pursue action X to B’s set of options AND  
  2. A adds this option with the intention of changing B’s behavior to X.

What is the ethical standing of enablement as a mechanism for behavioural change? How does the ethical status of this mechanism compare to coercion, incentive and nudge? This chapter addresses this question with reference to innovation brings new options for consumers. May states change individual behaviour through adding options in the market? What are the constraints of such policy? I argue that it is a comparably soft approach towards behavioural change. Even considering the possible long-term effects of market creation, such as option removal and preference change, it should be considered a gold standard for policy aiming for behavioural change.

Section 2 goes into more depth about innovation and market creation as a form of enablement and the space for policy to engage in such innovation. Sections 3 to 6 compare enablement with the other forms of behavioural change on different evaluative criteria, namely freedom (section 3), property (section 4), autonomy (section 5) and paternalism (section 6). The overall argument is that enablement is comparably soft on these parameters. Section 7 addresses two objections and section 8 concludes.