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When Individual Preferences Defy Sustainability — Can Merit Good Arguments Close the Gap?

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  • Hoberg, Nikolai
  • Strunz, Sebastian

Abstract

In this paper, we discuss how merit good arguments may contribute to discussions about sustainability. To this end, we clarify how merit good arguments deviate from individual preferences and relate the justification for deviations from individual preferences to two conceptions of well-being: an informed preference satisfaction and a perfectionist conception. Building on this framework, we analyze how merit good arguments can be helpful for discussing sustainability as justice, what challenges merit good arguments pose to future generations, and whether they can serve as a normative justification for green nudges. The analysis yields two main insights. First, a reflection on the concept of merit goods is helpful in sorting out the different justifications that sustainability interventions may rely on. In particular, it allows separating the challenges of redistribution, internalization of externalities and increasing individual consumption of particular (merit) goods such as health care or education more clearly. Second, the precise notion of merit goods by itself, however, only offers a limited contribution and does not represent a blank check to justify deviations from individual preferences.

Suggested Citation

  • Hoberg, Nikolai & Strunz, Sebastian, 2018. "When Individual Preferences Defy Sustainability — Can Merit Good Arguments Close the Gap?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 286-293.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:143:y:2018:i:c:p:286-293
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2017.07.004
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    Cited by:

    1. Strunz, Sebastian & Bartkowski, Bartosz, 2017. "Degrowth, modernity, and the open society," UFZ Discussion Papers 7/2017, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Merit goods; Sustainability; Well-being;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth

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