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Is there a Paradox of a Hayekian Paternalist?

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  • Michael Wohlgemuth
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    Abstract

    Is Friedrich von Hayek in some specific, perhaps paradoxical, way a "classical liberal paternalist"? My answer will be an unsatisfying "yes and no" depending not only on my interpretation of Hayek, but also on the manifold interpretations one can give to the concepts of paternalism and classical liberalism (or, indeed: liberty). I start with an interpretation of Hayek’s account of "modernity". Here, I hint at a first potential paradox in the form of a "magic triangle" composed of (a) Hayek’s praise and explanation of the evolutionary emergence of the spontaneous order of the market and civil society, (b) Hayek’s fierce opposition to modernist thinking and the fatal conceit of rationalist constructivism and (c) Hayek’s gloomy visions of politics, legislation, or public choice. Next, I shortly distinguish various dimensions of paternalism and confront these with Hayek’s classical liberalism. In the following parts, I offer a brief account of behavioral "anomalies" of public choices that are analogous to, and even more harmful than, those used as legitimizations of "libertarian paternalism" in the private realm. I end up with a qualified claim that at least in the realm of potentially self-damaging collective choices, Hayek might be called a (classical liberal) "paternalist".

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography in its series Papers on Economics and Evolution with number 2011-22.

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    Length: 28 pages
    Date of creation: 22 Dec 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2011-22

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    1. Douglas Whitman, 1998. "Hayek contra Pangloss on Evolutionary Systems," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 45-66, March.
    2. George A. Akerlof, 1989. "The Economics Of Illusion," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(1), pages 1-15, 03.
    3. Caplan, Bryan, 2001. "Rational Ignorance versus Rational Irrationality," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(1), pages 3-26.
    4. Smith, Vernon L, 1985. "Experimental Economics: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 264-72, March.
    5. Mozaffar Qizilbash, 2009. "Well-Being, Preference Formation and the Danger of Paternalism," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2009-18, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.
    6. Michael Wohlgemuth, 2002. "Democracy and Opinion Falsification: Towards a New Austrian Political Economy," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 223-246, September.
    7. Michael Wohlgemuth, 2000. "Political entrepreneurship and bidding for political monopoly," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 273-295.
    8. Andy Denis, 2002. "Was Hayek a Panglossian Evolutionary Theorist? A Reply to Whitman," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 275-285, September.
    9. Kirchgassner, Gebhard & Pommerehne, Werner W, 1993. " Low-Cost Decisions as a Challenge to Public Choice," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 77(1), pages 107-15, September.
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