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Well-Being, Preference Formation and the Danger of Paternalism

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  • Mozaffar Qizilbash

Abstract

Informed or rational desire, capability and prudential value list views of well-being - must accommodate human limitations, as well as address issues about adaptation and paternalism. They sometimes address adaptation by toughening the requirement(s) on those desires, satisfaction of which constitutes well-being. That exacerbates a concern that these accounts if adopted will encourage policies which override actual desires and enforce paternalistic restrictions. Sunstein, like Sen, invokes democratic deliberation to address the adaptation problem, and advocates autonomy promoting paternalistic restrictions. Sunstein and Thaler's 'libertarian paternalism' extends this flavour of argument to cover examples of irrationality from behavioural economics. Their variation of the informed desire account involves highly idealized preferences which cannot, in practical terms, guide a paternalistic social planner, but lead to a potentially large range of cases where paternalistic intervention might, in principle, be justified. I argue that the liberal paternalist policy agenda should as currently conceived be resisted.

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Paper provided by Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group in its series Papers on Economics and Evolution with number 2009-18.

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Date of creation: Dec 2009
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Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2009-18

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  1. Sugden, Robert, 2006. "What We Desire, What We Have Reason to Desire, Whatever We Might Desire: Mill and Sen on the Value of Opportunity," Utilitas, Cambridge University Press, vol. 18(01), pages 33-51, March.
  2. Qizilbash, Mozaffar, 1998. "The Concept of Well-Being," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(01), pages 51-73, April.
  3. Mozaffar Qizilbash, 2007. "The Adaptation Problem, Evolution and Normative Economics," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2007-08, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.
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Cited by:
  1. Martin Binder & Leonhard K. Lades, 2013. "Autonomy-enhancing paternalism," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2013-04, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.
  2. Michael Wohlgemuth, 2011. "Is there a Paradox of a Hayekian Paternalist?," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2011-22, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.
  3. Michael M. Pichler, 2010. "The Economics of Cultural Formation of Preferences," Working Papers 431, Bielefeld University, Center for Mathematical Economics.

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