Review of Behavioral Economics > Vol 8 > Issue 3-4

On Making and Remaking Ourselves and Others: Mill to Jevons and Beyond on Rationality, Learning, and Paternalism

Sandra J. Peart, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond, USA,
Suggested Citation
Sandra J. Peart (2021), "On Making and Remaking Ourselves and Others: Mill to Jevons and Beyond on Rationality, Learning, and Paternalism", Review of Behavioral Economics: Vol. 8: No. 3-4, pp 221-237.

Publication Date: 09 Dec 2021
© 2021 S. J. Peart
Reverse Logistics,  Service Logistics and Product Support,  Supply Chain Management,  Technology Management and Strategy,  Telecommunications
JEL Codes: B12, B13
John Stuart MillWilliam Stanley JevonsPhilip Wicksteedrationalityno harm principle


Open Access

This is published under the terms of CC-BY.

In this article:
1. Introduction 
2. Starting with Mill: Learning by Choosing 
3. Jevons on Ignorance, Immorality, and Improvement 
4. Wicksteed’s “Inclusive Rationality” 
5. Conclusions 


The approach to human behavior and choice by Mario Rizzo and Glen Whitman in Escaping Paternalism: Rationality, Behavioral Economics, and Public Policy, has much in common with that of John Stuart Mill and Philip Wicksteed and departs from the “standard” neoclassical account developed by William Stanley Jevons. I connect the Rizzo-Whitman case for limited paternalism to Mill’s methodological approach and the no harm principle. Mill’s methodology and his emphasis on how people learn via making choices, are consistent with the Rizzo-Whitman approach. Mill’s no harm principle further bolsters their case. In marked contrast with Mill, and like the prescriptive paternalists with whom RW take issue (p. 280), Jevons was confident that he knew how his subjects should act; if they failed to fulfill his conditions for equilibrium spending, he was ready and willing to recommend policies to correct the so-called improvidence and immorality of the laboring classes.



Review of Behavioral Economics, Volume 8, Issue 3-4 Special Issue: Escaping Paternalism: Articles Overiew
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.