Shane Ryan’s 2018 paper in Analysis makes the case that libertarian paternalist acts are hard paternalist acts. This paper is of high academic and societal importance. Thaler and Sunstein have been very successful in persuading both other academics and policy makers of the merits of the libertarian paternalist (or “nudge”) approach. Part of their success has undoubtedly been down to the presentation of libertarian paternalist acts as not being hard paternalist acts. This has made libertarian paternalism palatable to both theorists and policy makers alike. Ryan’s paper argues that libertarian paternalist acts are in fact hard paternalist acts and in doing so he challenges the acceptability of libertarian paternalism theoretically and as a policy tool.
Ryan’s forthcoming paper “Epistemic Environmentalism” makes a contribution to scholarly work in applied epistemology by offering an innovative framework for research in that area. The work is also of high social significance in that it engages with issues of contemporary political and social importance. The framework offers a way of theorising phenomena such as “fake news” and dishonest testimony by experts and politicians.