A Reformulation of Libertarian Paternalism
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.
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