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Autonomy-enhancing paternalism

  • Martin Binder
  • Leonhard K. Lades

Behavioral economics has shown that individuals sometimes make decisions that are not in their best interest. This insight has prompted calls for behaviorally-informed policy interventions popu-larized under the notion of "libertarian paternalism". This type of soft paternalism aims at helping individuals without reducing their freedom of choice. We highlight three problems of libertarian paternalism: the difficulty to detect what is in the best interest of an individual, the focus on freedom of choice at the expense of a focus on autonomy, and the neglect of the dynamic effects of libertarian paternalistic policy interventions. We present a form of soft paternalism called "autonomy-enhancing paternalism" that seeks to constructively remedy these problems. Autonomy-enhancing paternalism suggests using insights from subjective well-being research in order to determine what makes individuals better off. It imposes an additional con-straint on the set of permissible interventions highlighting the importance of autonomy in the sense of the capability to make critically reflected, i.e. autonomous, decisions. Finally, it acknowl-edges that behavioral interventions can change the strength of individual decision making anomalies over time as well as influence individual preference learning. We illustrate the differences between libertarian paternalism and autonomy-enhancing paternalism in a simple formal model in the context of optimal sin nudges.

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Paper provided by Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography in its series Papers on Economics and Evolution with number 2013-04.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: 08 Nov 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2013-04
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