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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: December 2019

10 - Common Threads, Escape Routes, and Paths Forward

Summary

We summarize the arguments against behavioral paternalism laid out in the preceding chapters. Common threads that unify these lines of argument include: the complexity of inclusive rationality, the indeterminacy of paternalistic welfare criteria, the role of incentives and learning, and the rush to policy. We then consider a range of “escape routes” or defenses of behavioral paternalism, including: reverting to objective-welfare paternalism, appealing to obviousness, shifting the burden of proof, loosening the definition of paternalism, relying on the “libertarian condition,” invoking the inevitability of choice architecture, focusing on the irrational subset of the population, relying on extreme cases, treating behavioral paternalism as a toolbox, and invoking fiscal externalities. We conclude with a series of recommendations: replacing neoclassical (puppet) rationality with inclusive rationality, rejecting the paternalism-generating framework, having reasonable expectations of policymakers, and maintaining important distinctions such as public vs. private and coercive vs. voluntary interventions.

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