Review of Behavioral Economics > Vol 5 > Issue 3-4

Efficacious and Ethical Public Paternalism

Daniel M. Hausman, University of Wisconsin–Madison, USA,
Suggested Citation
Daniel M. Hausman (2018), "Efficacious and Ethical Public Paternalism", Review of Behavioral Economics: Vol. 5: No. 3-4, pp 261-280.

Publication Date: 31 Dec 2018
© 2018 D. M. Hausman
Behavioral Economics,  Biases,  Behavioral Decision Making,  Regulation


Open Access

This is published under the terms of CC-BY.

In this article:
1. What is Paternalism? 
2. Meeting the Epistemic Demands of Paternalistic Policy 
3. How can government help people to choose more wisely? 
4. The Moral Appraisal of Non-coercive Influences 


People often make bad judgments. A big brother or sister who was wise, well-informed, and properly-motivated could often make better decisions for almost everyone. But can governments, which are not staffed with ideal big brothers or sisters, improve upon the mediocre decisions individuals make? If so, when and how? The risks of extending the reach of government into guiding individual lives must also be addressed. This essay addresses three questions concerning when paternalistic policies can be efficacious, efficient, and safe: 1. In what circumstances can policy makers be confident that they know better than individuals how individuals can best promote their own well-being? 2. What are the methods governments can use to lead people to make decision that are better for themselves? 3. What are the moral pluses and minuses of these methods? Answering these questions defines a domain in which paternalistic policy is an attractive option.



Review of Behavioral Economics, Volume 5, Issue 3-4 Special issue Paternalism: Articles Overiew
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.