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If nudge cannot be applied: a litmus test of the readers’ stance on paternalism

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  • Chen Li
  • Zhihua Li
  • Peter Wakker

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Abstract

A central question in many debates on paternalism is whether a decision analyst can ever go against the stated preference of a client, even if merely intending to improve the decisions for the client. Using four gedanken-experiments, this paper shows that this central question, so cleverly and aptly avoided by libertarian paternalism (nudge), cannot always be avoided. The four thought experiments, while purely hypothetical, serve to raise and specify the critical arguments in a maximally clear and pure manner. The first purpose of the paper is, accordingly, to provide a litmus test on the readers’ stance on paternalism. We thus also survey and organize the various stances in the literature. The secondary purpose of this paper is to argue that paternalism cannot always be avoided and consumer sovereignty cannot always be respected. However, this argument will remain controversial. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Suggested Citation

  • Chen Li & Zhihua Li & Peter Wakker, 2014. "If nudge cannot be applied: a litmus test of the readers’ stance on paternalism," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 76(3), pages 297-315, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:theord:v:76:y:2014:i:3:p:297-315
    DOI: 10.1007/s11238-013-9375-2
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Gerardo Infante & Guilhem Lecouteux & Robert Sugden, 2016. "Preference purification and the inner rational agent: a critique of the conventional wisdom of behavioural welfare economics," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(1), pages 1-25, March.

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