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Evolving hierarchical preferences and behavioral economic policies

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  • Jan Schnellenbach

    (BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg)

Abstract

This paper critically discusses the standard concept of hierarchical preferences, which presupposes that a stable system of higher- and lower-order preferences exists, wherein the former contains an individual’s fundamental purposes and values, while the latter guides everyday choices. It is argued that systems of hierarchical preferences suffer from problems similar to those of standard preferences, in terms of rationality, that they also are potentially unstable and can change, for example, in response to individual experiences. It is furthermore argued that higher-order preferences may not be coherent internally, because their different parts result from different kinds of reasoning. Finally, it is argued that behavioral economic policies, such as soft paternalism, easily can endanger the autonomy and integrity of an individual as a person.

Suggested Citation

  • Jan Schnellenbach, 2019. "Evolving hierarchical preferences and behavioral economic policies," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 178(1), pages 31-52, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:178:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1007_s11127-018-0607-4
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-018-0607-4
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    Cited by:

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    2. Jan Schnellenbach & Christian Schubert, 2019. "A note on the behavioral political economy of innovation policy," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 29(5), pages 1399-1414, November.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Hierarchical preferences; Multiple selves; Internalities; Behavioral policies; Paternalism; Nudge;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D18 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Protection
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • Z18 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Public Policy

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