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Should evolutionary economists embrace libertarian paternalism?

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  • Martin Binder

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Abstract

Libertarian paternalists hold that biases and distortions in human decision-making justify paternalistic interference affecting individuals’ decisions. The aim of this paper is to analzye to what extent an evolutionary outlook supports libertarian paternalism. I will put forward three arguments in favour of libertarian paternalism and six objections that strongly oppose it. While evolutionary economists should take seriously the contention that our positive knowledge of real-world decision-making will have to influence our normative assessment of these decisions, the objections against libertarian paternalism brought forward in this paper serve as a cautionary note. Contrary to the claims of its proponents, libertarian paternalism is neither inevitable, nor does it provide an adequate measuring rod of normative rationality. It is prone to abuse by anchoring its standard of rationality pragmatically to norms and can thus promote conservative bias and stifle innovative exploration. It also presents the policy-maker with a compounded Hayekian knowledge problem. Finally, from a dynamic point of view, libertarian paternalism’s manipulative shaping of preferences might lock-in individuals into heteronomous preference learning paths without them being even aware of it. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Binder, 2014. "Should evolutionary economists embrace libertarian paternalism?," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 515-539, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:joevec:v:24:y:2014:i:3:p:515-539
    DOI: 10.1007/s00191-013-0323-7
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Binder & Leonhard K. Lades, 2015. "Autonomy-Enhancing Paternalism," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(1), pages 3-27, February.
    2. Christian Schubert, 2015. "On the ethics of public nudging: Autonomy and Agency," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201533, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    3. John Gustavsson, 2016. "The Marginal Benefit of Manipulation: Investigating paternalistic interventions in the context of intertemporal choice," Economics, Finance and Accounting Department Working Paper Series n276-16.pdf, Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting, National University of Ireland - Maynooth.
    4. Binder, Martin & Lades, Leonhard K, 2014. "Autonomy-enhancing paternalism," 2007 Annual Meeting, July 29-August 1, 2007, Portland, Oregon TN 2015-02, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    5. Wolfgang Kerber, 2014. "Soft Paternalismus und Verbraucherpolitik," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201449, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    6. John S.M Gustavsson, 2017. "The Marginal Cost of Transparency: Do honest nudges work?," Economics, Finance and Accounting Department Working Paper Series n289-17.pdf, Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting, National University of Ireland - Maynooth.
    7. Pasche, Markus, 2014. "Soft Paternalism and Nudging - Critique of the Behavioral Foundations," MPRA Paper 61140, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Christian Schubert, 2014. "Evolutionary economics and the case for a constitutional libertarian paternalism—a comment on Martin Binder, “should evolutionary economists embrace libertarian paternalism?”," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(5), pages 1107-1113, November.
    9. Martin Binder, 2014. "A constitutional paradigm is not enough—would sovereign citizens really agree to manipulative nudges?—A reply to Christian Schubert," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(5), pages 1115-1120, November.
    10. Schubert Christian & Binder Martin, 2014. "Reconciling Normative and Behavioral Economics: An Application of the “Naturalistic Approach” to the Adaptation Problem," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 234(2-3), pages 350-365, April.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Evolutionary economics; Libertarian paternalism; Behavioural economics; Naturalistic methodology; B52; D63;

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

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