Discounting and “Libertarian” Paternalism

Richard Thaler is a leading proponent of “libertarian” (or “soft”) paternalism. But there is nothing “libertarian” or “soft” about paternalism, no matter what it’s called. (See this, for example.) Thaler’s embrace of paternalism springs from arrogance — the presumption that he knows how others should lead their lives. A sign of that arrogance, and one […]

More about Paternalism

To complement my earlier post, “Beware of Libertarian Paternalists,” I offer the following links: Pitfalls of Paternalism (Ilya Somin, The Volokh Conspiracy) Hayek on the Use of Superior Expert Knowledge as a Justification for Paternalism (Ilya Somin, The Volokh Conspiracy) The Knowledge Problem of New Paternalism (Mario Rizzo, ThinkMarkets) Little Brother Is Watching You: The […]

Paternalism, Yet Again

Bryan Caplan skewers another effort by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein to defend government-mandated, “libertarian” paternalism. As Caplan says, “government long ago took up the burden of helping consumers, and the result is a mess.” Thaler, Sunstein, and their ilk must not have been paying attention when Ronald Reagan (supposedly) said that the scariest phrase […]

Apropos Paternalism

Will Wilkinson, in a TCS Daily review of John Cassidy’s New Yorker article about neuronomics, writes: Paternalism is the use of coercion to force people to do or refrain from something against their will for their own good. Liberals of all stripes generally reject paternalism for reasons most lucidly laid out in J.S. Mill’s masterpiece […]

A Further Note about "Libertarian" Paternalism

I last discussed “libertarian” (or “soft”) paternalism here (and posted a related note here). Any single instance of government-sponsored (and therefore government-encouraged) paternalism may seem benign. But it is not. Take the case of default enrollment in 401(k) plans, which the Pension Protection Act of 2006 further encourages. Default enrollment in 401(k) plans — however […]

The Feds and "Libertarian" Paternalism

President Bush today signed into law the Pension Protect Act of 2006. Why the federal government — or any government in the U.S. — is in the business of regulating and insuring pension plans is another whole story, as they say. (See this for a general treatment of the erosion of the Constitution’s meaning. See […]

Another Voice Against the New Paternalism

Glen Whitman of Agoraphilia weighs in: If we think of a person as consisting of multiple selves—the present self who wishes to indulge in transient pleasures versus the future self who wishes to be healthy—then arguably the present self’s choices can force externalities on the future self. Those within-person externalities have been dubbed “internalities.” And […]

Back-Door Paternalism

Shane Frederick, an assistant professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, suggests (in so many words) that the “best and brightest” should make decisions for the rest of us. He makes his case in “On the Ball: Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making.” Frederick begins well enough, with premises that seem well supported: Bright people have […]

Another Thought about Libertarian Paternalism

Every individual possesses a complex and unique, but ever-changing, set of tastes and preferences. The individual seeks to strike a balance among those tastes and preferences in a way that, very roughly, maximizes personal satisfaction (utility). The outcome of the balancing act depends on: ability to acquire and evaluate information cost of making and changing […]

Second-Guessing, Paternalism, Parentalism, and Choice

You make the best decision you can, at the time you make it, in light of your preferences and knowledge at that time. Then someone (sometimes yourself) comes along to tell you that you would would have made a “more rational” decision if only you had had different knowledge or different preferences at the time […]

The Short Answer to Libertarian Paternalism

Here’s the fatal flaw in “libertarian paternalism” and all other forms of statism: If we are systematically flawed in our efforts to see what is good for ourselves, how much worse must we be at seeing what is good for others, about whom we can know far less and with whose interests we can have […]

Libertarian Paternalism

UPDATED TWICE BELOW There’s a fuss about “libertarian paternalism,” which its proponents (Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago) say is intended to help individuals make better decisions by having corporations and governments shape choices more artfully. Zimran Ahmed (Winterspeak) defends the concept because he spoke to Thaler about this and read […]

No Tears for Cass Sunstein

Cass Sunstein is, among many things, the co-author (with Richard Thaler). of Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. One reviewer says this about the book: Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler contend that the way public choices are framed and presented goes a long way toward determining the kinds of decisions people make. Summarizing […]

The Left-Libertarian Axis

I long ago concluded that the path to liberty is found in conservatism, not in what is called “libertarianism”. By conservatism I mean the disposition to rely on the tried-and-true, which doesn’t preclude a willingness to innovate but does insist that the acceptance of innovation must be voluntary. (See “Social Norms and Liberty” and the […]

Not-So-Random Thoughts (XXII)

This is a long-overdue entry; the previous one was posted on October 4, 2017. Accordingly, it is a long entry, consisting of these parts: Censorship and Left-Wing Bias on the Web The Real Collusion Story “Suicide” of the West Evolution, Intelligence, and Race Will the Real Fascists Please Stand Up? Consciousness Empathy Is Over-Rated “Nudging” […]

Thaler on Discounting

This is a companion to “Richard Thaler, Nobel Laureate” and “Thaler’s Non-Revolution in Economics“. See also the long list of related posts at the end of “Richard Thaler, Nobel Laureate”. Richard Thaler, the newly minted Noble laureate in economics, has published many papers, including one about discounting as a tool of government decision-making. The paper, […]

Richard Thaler, Nobel Laureate

I am slightly irked by today’s news of the selection of Richard Thaler as the 2017 Noblel laureate in economics. (It’s actually the Swedish National Bank’s Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, not one of the original prizes designated in Alfred Nobel’s will.) Granted, Thaler did some praiseworthy and groundbreaking work in […]

The Danger of Marginal Thinking

The “marginal revolution” in economics, which occurred in the latter part of the 19th century, introduced marginalism, a theory of economics that attempts to explain the discrepancy in the value of goods and services by reference to their secondary, or marginal, utility. The reason why the price of diamonds is higher than that of water, […]

Unorthodox Economics: 2. Pitfalls

This is the second entry in what I hope will become a book-length series of posts. That result, if it comes to pass, will amount to an unorthodox economics textbook. Here are the chapters that have been posted to date: 1. What Is Economics? 2. Pitfalls 3. What Is Scientific about Economics? 4. A Parable […]