IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

A Reformulation of Libertarian Paternalism


  • Guilhem Lecouteux

    () (Department of Economics, Ecole Polytechnique - X - École polytechnique - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)


Conventional normative economics is built on the assumption that people act as if seeking to satisfy coherent and a priori preferences. This model has however been challenged by many empirical works highlighting the existence of systematic deviations from the behaviour predicted by the neoclassical theory. The development of behavioural economics therefore questions the validity of the results developed by normative economists. Reconciling behavioural and normative economics needs in particular a clarification of the normative content of economic prescriptions, since it appears that the assumption of rational preferences enabled economists to overstep this question, the different interpretations of the current normative criterion of preference-satisfaction leading in fine to the same prescriptions. In this paper, we want to highlight that libertarian paternalism is probably the most natural solution to the reconciliation problem for neoclassical economists, since its current formulation relies on the existence of a rational homo oeconomicus trapped within each individual. We can however find within the current formulation of libertarian paternalism the same difficulties than the ones of Pareto's theory of the homo oeconomicus. We therefore suggest a reformulation of libertarian paternalism based on a normative criterion of individual autonomy rather than preference-satisfaction, and defend its relevance in the specific context of common-pool resources, by showing that the normative prescriptions generated by our principle of individual autonomy present strong similarities with the institutional design principles of Ostrom (1990) enabling a sustainable management of common-pool resources.

Suggested Citation

  • Guilhem Lecouteux, 2013. "A Reformulation of Libertarian Paternalism," Working Papers hal-00850533, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:hal-00850533
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server:

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert Sugden, 2004. "The Opportunity Criterion: Consumer Sovereignty Without the Assumption of Coherent Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1014-1033, September.
    2. Ben McQuillin & Robert Sugden, 2012. "Reconciling normative and behavioural economics: the problems to be solved," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 38(4), pages 553-567, April.
    3. Sunstein, Cass R, 1998. "Selective Fatalism," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(2), pages 799-823, June.
    4. Cass R. Sunstein & Richard H. Thaler, 2003. "Libertarian paternalism is not an oxymoron," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 48(Jun).
    5. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    6. Samuelson, William & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1988. "Status Quo Bias in Decision Making," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 7-59, March.
    7. Robert Sugden, 2007. "The value of opportunities over time when preferences are unstable," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 29(4), pages 665-682, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    welfare economics; libertarian paternalism; homo oeconomicus; nudge; autonomy; common-pool resources;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:hal-00850533. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (CCSD). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.