Friday, 27 November 2009

More Whitman on paternalism and slippery slopes

Another nice installment is out.
As the secondhand smoke and obesity examples [just presented] suggest, rent-seekers with an interest in distorting and simplifying information come in at least two varieties. The first variety is old-style paternalists who believe they know best and do not necessarily care about the underlying preferences of the targets. Traditional temperance and health advocates fall within this category. They sacrifice the preferences of the targets to their own moralistic goals. The second variety is people who stand to benefit economically from the promotion or cessation of some activity. Examples include mutual fund companies that provide savings instruments, weight-loss clinics and programs, and manufacturers of smoking-cessation drugs. Public officials and agencies with an interest in preserving and expanding their domains also fall within this category, as do some individuals in their role as consumers and workers (e.g., non-smoking bar customers who would prefer to have more establishments cater to their tastes).

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