Friday, 6 November 2009

Whitman and Rizzo on paternalism

Glen Whitman and Mario Rizzo have published a nice piece, "Little Brother is Watching You: New Paternalism and Slippery Slopes". Whitman will be blogging the article in the days to come; worth watching for. Money quote
Our thesis is that the new paternalism’s claim to moderation is not sustainable. A recent body of literature, to which we have contributed, has rehabilitated slippery-slope reasoning by examining the specific processes by which slippery slopes occur, as well as the circumstances under which slippage is most likely. The insights of the slippery-slope literature suggest that new paternalist policies are particularly subject to expansion. We argue that this is true even if policymakers are rational. But perhaps more importantly, we argue that the slippery-slope threat is especially great if policymakers are not fully rational, but instead share the behavioral and cognitive biases attributed to the people their policies are supposed to help. Consequently, accepting new paternalist policies creates a risk of accepting, in the long run, greater restrictions on individual autonomy than have heretofore been acknowledged. Inasmuch as new paternalists claim to be interested in preserving autonomy, this surely must be taken into account as an unrecognized or unacknowledged cost to be balanced against any possible gains from their policies.

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