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A constitutional economics perspective on soft paternalism

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  • Schnellenbach, Jan

Abstract

Using a framework that distinguishes short-term consumer preferences, individual reflective preferences and political preferences, we discuss from a constitutional economics perspective whether individuals find it in their common constitutional interest to endow representatives and bureaucrats with the competence to impose soft paternalist policies. The focus is specifically on soft paternalist policies, because these often work with non-transparent 'nudges' that are considered as manipulative in some contributions to the literature. We show that those soft paternalist policies that are manipulative indeed collide with three criteria of consumer sovereignty, reflective sovereignty and citizen sovereignty that can be argued to represent common constitutional interest of citizens. On the other hand, we argue that the set of paternalist policies that is deemed acceptable on the constitutional level is restricted to non-manipulative instruments, and their application as government policies is limited to cases with stable and very homogenous preferences. However, we also argue that competitive markets are capable of supplying many mechanisms that allow individuals to cope with problems in their decision-making processes on a private level.

Suggested Citation

  • Schnellenbach, Jan, 2015. "A constitutional economics perspective on soft paternalism," Freiburg Discussion Papers on Constitutional Economics 15/02, Walter Eucken Institut e.V..
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:aluord:1502
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Ethics of Behavioural Science Policy: Nudge FORGOOD
      by Liam Delaney in Economics, Psychology and Policy on 2020-06-16 00:00:00

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    Cited by:

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    2. Hoberg, Nikolai & Strunz, Sebastian, 2018. "When Individual Preferences Defy Sustainability — Can Merit Good Arguments Close the Gap?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 286-293.
    3. Schubert, Christian, 2017. "Green nudges: Do they work? Are they ethical?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 329-342.
    4. Guilhem Lecouteux, 2020. "Welfare Economics in Large Worlds: Welfare and Public Policies in an Uncertain Environment," GREDEG Working Papers 2020-08, Groupe de REcherche en Droit, Economie, Gestion (GREDEG CNRS), Université Côte d'Azur, France.
    5. Jan Schnellenbach, 2019. "Evolving hierarchical preferences and behavioral economic policies," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 178(1), pages 31-52, January.
    6. Cynthia Weiyi Cai, 2020. "Nudging the financial market? A review of the nudge theory," Accounting and Finance, Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand, vol. 60(4), pages 3341-3365, December.
    7. William F. Shughart & Diana W. Thomas & Michael D. Thomas, 2020. "Institutional Change and the Importance of Understanding Shared Mental Models," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 73(3), pages 371-391, August.
    8. Follert, Florian & Naumann, Chantal & Thieme, Lutz, 2020. "Between scientific publication and public perception: Some economic remarks on the allocation of time in science," Working Papers of the European Institute for Socioeconomics 34, European Institute for Socioeconomics (EIS), Saarbrücken.
    9. 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).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    nudge; biases; autonomy; consumer sovereignty; reflective preferences; behavioural policies;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D18 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Protection
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • Z18 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Public Policy

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