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Autonomy-enhancing Paternalism

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  • Martin Binder
  • Leonhard K. Lades

Abstract

Behavioral economics has shown that individuals sometimes make decisions that are not in their best interests. This insight has prompted calls for behaviorally informed policy interventions popularized 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 of detecting 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 pa-ternalism 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 acknowledges 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 sim-ple formal model in the context of optimal sin nudges.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Binder & Leonhard K. Lades, 2014. "Autonomy-enhancing Paternalism," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_800, Levy Economics Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:lev:wrkpap:wp_800
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    1. Autonomy-enhancing Paternalism
      by Alessandro Cerboni in Knowledge Team on 2014-05-27 01:06:08

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    Cited by:

    1. 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).
    2. Schnellenbach, Jan, 2015. "A constitutional economics perspective on soft paternalism," Freiburg Discussion Papers on Constitutional Economics 15/02, Walter Eucken Institut e.V..
    3. Pasche, Markus, 2014. "Soft Paternalism and Nudging - Critique of the Behavioral Foundations," MPRA Paper 61140, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Jan Schnellenbach, 2016. "A Constitutional Economics Perspective on Soft Paternalism," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(1), pages 135-156, February.
    5. 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, pages 1107-1113.
    6. 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, pages 1115-1120.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Libertarian Paternalism; Behavioral Economics; Subjective Well-Being; Autonomy; Preference Learning; Welfare Economics;

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • D18 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Protection
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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