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  • Cited by 4
  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: February 2013

Introduction - Paternalism – Issues and trends


This introductory chapter discusses some of the key aspects of the present-day discussion of paternalism. Interest in paternalism has been heightened recently by the publication of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein's Nudge. They tout an approach to policy-making that is at once paternalistic but will not offend its traditional (libertarian) critics. At the heart of Thaler and Sunstein's defense of libertarian paternalism is a body of psychological research showing that people's choices are influenced by small and apparently insignificant aspects of the choice environment, or what they call the choice architecture. There is a well-known objection to utilitarianism: insofar as it aims to maximize good in the aggregate, individuals can be sacrificed for the greater good. Paternalistic nudges risk harming a portion of the population. Thaler and Sunstein would presumably object to stacking nudges because collectively they might constitute a shove.