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Statist Quo Bias


  • Daniel B. Klein


At first blush, Thaler and Sunstein seem to be proposing that voluntarily helping people to overcome or cope with their rash, ignorant, impulsive selves be called “libertarian paternalism.†Such semantics would only cause confusion and introduce new terminology for things already well served by ordinary language. Upon closer reading, however, we find that they maintain an unconventional distinction between coercive and non-coercive (or voluntary) action, while never making clear how they distinguish coercive from non-coercive action. I suggest that “libertarian paternalism†is really a depredation upon the very distinction between coercive and voluntary action.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel B. Klein, 2004. "Statist Quo Bias," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 1(2), pages 260-271, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:ejw:journl:v:1:y:2004:i:2:p:260-271

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
    2. Klein, Daniel B., 1994. "If Government is so Villainous, How come Government Officials don't seem like Villains?," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(01), pages 91-106, April.
    3. Ikeda, Sanford, 2003. "How Compatible Are Public Choice and Austrian Political Economy?," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 16(1), pages 63-75, March.
    4. Cass R. Sunstein & Richard H. Thaler, 2003. "Libertarian paternalism is not an oxymoron," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 48(Jun).
    5. Boettke, Peter J & Lopez, Edward J, 2002. "Austrian Economics and Public Choice," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 15(2-3), pages 111-119, June.
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    More about this item


    paternalism; libertarianism; dignity; coercion; liberty; freedom;

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making


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