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Well-Being, Preference Formation and the Danger of Paternalism

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  • Mozaffar Qizilbash

Abstract

Informed or rational desire, capability and prudential value list views of well-being - must accommodate human limitations, as well as address issues about adaptation and paternalism. They sometimes address adaptation by toughening the requirement(s) on those desires, satisfaction of which constitutes well-being. That exacerbates a concern that these accounts if adopted will encourage policies which override actual desires and enforce paternalistic restrictions. Sunstein, like Sen, invokes democratic deliberation to address the adaptation problem, and advocates autonomy promoting paternalistic restrictions. Sunstein and Thaler's 'libertarian paternalism' extends this flavour of argument to cover examples of irrationality from behavioural economics. Their variation of the informed desire account involves highly idealized preferences which cannot, in practical terms, guide a paternalistic social planner, but lead to a potentially large range of cases where paternalistic intervention might, in principle, be justified. I argue that the liberal paternalist policy agenda should as currently conceived be resisted.

Suggested Citation

  • Mozaffar Qizilbash, 2009. "Well-Being, Preference Formation and the Danger of Paternalism," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2009-18, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
  • Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2009-18
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mozaffar Qizilbash, 2007. "The Adaptation Problem, Evolution and Normative Economics," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2007-08, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
    2. Sugden, Robert, 2006. "What We Desire, What We Have Reason to Desire, Whatever We Might Desire: Mill and Sen on the Value of Opportunity," Utilitas, Cambridge University Press, vol. 18(01), pages 33-51, March.
    3. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
    4. Qizilbash, Mozaffar, 1998. "The Concept of Well-Being," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(01), pages 51-73, April.
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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. Michael Wohlgemuth, 2011. "Is there a Paradox of a Hayekian Paternalist?," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2011-22, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
    3. Martin Binder, 2014. "Should evolutionary economists embrace libertarian paternalism?," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 515-539, July.
    4. Pichler, Michael, 2011. "The economics of cultural formation of preferences," Center for Mathematical Economics Working Papers 431, Center for Mathematical Economics, Bielefeld University.

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