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Do Self-Committers Mind Commitment by Others? An Experiment on Weak Paternalism

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  • Matthias Uhl

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    (Max Planck Institute of Economics, IMPRS "Uncertainty", Jena, Germany)

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    Abstract

    Weak paternalism commits protégés to their own plans. This experiment addresses the question of whether protégés judge weakly paternalistic acts primarily by means of their consequences or on principle grounds. Subjects receive a reward for showing up to the laboratory early the next morning which decreases in time. Protégés can either self-commit to a planned time or self-liberate by preserving spontaneity. By making this binary choice protégés express their preference regarding liberty. Simultaneously, another subject is either paternalistic or liberal by making an analogous choice for them. We analyze protégés' attitudes toward both policy styles via costly reward choices. If only consequences matter, self-committers should appreciate paternalism while self-liberators should condemn it. A deontological aversion against paternalism would negate a difference between both groups. Differing judgments constitute a consequentialist pattern. However, this pattern is driven by self-liberators' clear judgments. For self-committers also a norm of non-interference into others' liberty can be identified.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Max-Planck-Institute of Economics in its series Jena Economic Research Papers with number 2010-055.

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    Date of creation: 24 Aug 2010
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    Handle: RePEc:jrp:jrpwrp:2010-055

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    Keywords: Self-commitment; weak paternalism; freedom of choice; agency; moral judgments;

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    1. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
    2. W. Pesendorfer & F. Gul, 1999. "Temptation and Self-Control," Princeton Economic Theory Papers, Economics Department, Princeton University 99f1, Economics Department, Princeton University.
    3. Hammond, Peter J, 1976. "Changing Tastes and Coherent Dynamic Choice," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(1), pages 159-73, February.
    4. Nava Ashraf & Dean Karlan & Wesley Yin, 2006. "Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence from a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 121(2), pages 635-672, May.
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