Working paper
An ungovernable tool of government? The problematic use of labels in public health policies
Sciences Po LIEPP Working Paper
Paris : Laboratoire interdisciplinaire d'évaluation des politiques publiques
Sciences Po LIEPP Working Paper : 106
Label, Public Health , Food, Behaviour, Company, Consumer
The popularity of labels as tools of government is growing in many policy areas. This working paper focuses on the creation and the implementation of three different public labels in the public health field. Granted by the States or other public authorities, those labels reward distinctively organizations for their contribution to a public cause. Governance by labels relies on the mechanisms of market competition and of social distinction at play within a field, to orient actors towards opinions that governments consider to be in the public interest. This working paper nevertheless shows the difficulties to implement effectively that kind of soft policy tools: for them to affect firms and consumers' behaviours, they have to integrate many conflicting objectives and interests at the same time, which is rarely the case. We actually show, in our three case studies, that governing the market through labels implies governing the labels themselves, by carefully selecting their grantee, promoting them to both consumers and companies, and struggling against other challenger labels or market intermediaries. It is not an uncommon paradox that these labels that are entrusted with such a high power of "changing the world", have been finally stripped of any power.