In the case of "impure" paternalism in trying to protect the welfare of a class of persons we find that the only way to do so will involve restricting the freedom of other persons besides those who are benefited. Now it might be thought that there are no cases of "impure" paternalism since any such case could always be justified on nonpaternalistic grounds, that is in terms of preventing harm to others. Thus we might ban cigarette manufacturers from continuing to manufacture their product on the grounds that we are preventing them from causing illness to others in the same way that we prevent other manufacturers from releasing pollutants into the atmosphere, thereby causing danger to the members of the community.
The difference is, however, that in the former but not the latter case the harm is of such a nature that it could be avoided by those individuals affected if they so chose. The incurring of the harm requires, so to speak, the active cooperation of the victim.
It would be mistaken theoretically and hypocritical in practice to assert that our interference in such cases is just like our interference in standard cases of protecting others from harm. At the very least someone interfered with in this way can reply that no one is complaining about his activities.
It may be that impure paternalism requires arguments or reasons of a stronger kind in order to be justified, since there are persons who are losing a portion of their liberty and they do not even have the solace of having it be done "in their own interest. Paternalism then will always involve limitations on the liberty of some individuals in their own interests but it may also extend to interferences with the liberty of parties whose interests are not in question.
IV Finally, by way of some more preliminary analysis, I want to distinguish paternalistic interference with liberty from a related type with which it is often confused. Consider, for example, legislation which forbids employees to work more than, say, forty hours per week.
It is sometimes argued that such legislation is paternalistic for if employees desired such a restriction on their hours of work they could agree among themselves to impose it voluntarily. But because they do not the society imposes its own conception of their best interests upon them by the use of coercion.
Hence this is paternalism. Now it may be that some legislation of this nature is, in fact, paternalistically motivated. I am not denying that. All I want to point out is that there is another possible way of justifying such measures which is not paternalistic in nature.
It is not paternalistic because, as Mill puts it in a similar context, such measures are "required not to overrule the judgment of individuals respecting their own interest, but to give effect to that judgment: they being unable to give effect to it except by concert, which concert again cannot be effectual unless it receives validity and sanction from the law" Principles of Political Economy.
The line of reasoning here is a familiar one first found in Hobbes and developed with great sophistication by contemporary economists in the last decade or so. There are restrictions which are in the interests of a class of persons taken collectively but are such that the immediate interest of each individual is furthered by his violating the rule when others adhere to it.
In such cases the individuals involved may need the use of compulsion to give effect to their collective judgment of their own interest by guaranteeing each individual compliance by the others. In these cases compulsion is not used to achieve some benefit which is not recognized to be a benefit by those concerned, but rather because it is the only feasible means of achieving some benefit which is recognized as such by all concerned.
This way of viewing matters provides us with another characterization of paternalism in general. Paternalism might be thought of as the use of coercion to achieve a good which is not recognized as such by those persons for whom the good is intended. Again while this formulation captures the heart of the matter--it is surely what Mill is objecting to in On Liberty--the matter is not always quite like that. For example, when we force motorcyclists to wear helmets we are trying to promote a good--the protection of the person from injury--which is surely recognized by most of the individuals concerned.
It is not that a cyclist doesn't value his bodily integrity; rather, as a supporter of such legislation would put it, he either places, perhaps irrationally, another value or good freedom from wearing a helmet above that of physical well-being or, perhaps, while recognizing that danger in the abstract, he either does not fully appreciate it or he underestimates the likelihood of its occurring.
But now we are approaching the question of possible justifications of paternalistic measures and the rest of this essay will be devoted to that question. V I shall begin for dialectical purposes by discussing Mill's objections to paternalism and then go on to discuss more positive proposals.
An initial feature that strikes one is the absolute nature of Mill's prohibitions against paternalism. It is so unlike the carefully qualified admonitions of Mill and his fellow utilitarians on other moral issues.
He speaks of self-protection as the sole end warranting coercion, of the individual's own goals as never being a sufficient warrant. Contrast this with his discussion of the prohibition against lying in Utilitarianism: Yet that even this rule, sacred as it is, admits of possible exception, is acknowledged by all moralists, the chief of which is where the withholding of some fact The same tentativeness is present when he deals with justice: It is confessedly unjust to break faith with any one: to violate an engagement, either express or implied, or disappoint expectations raised by our own conduct, at least if we have raised these expectations knowingly and voluntarily.
Like all the other obligations of justice already spoken of, this one is not regarded as absolute, but as capable of being overruled by a stronger obligation of justice on the other side. This anomaly calls for some explanation. The structure of Mill's argument is as follows: Since restraint is an evil the burden of proof is on those who propose such restraint.
Since the conduct which is being considered is purely self-regarding, the normal appeal to the protection of the interests of others is not available. Therefore we have to consider whether reasons involving reference to the individual's own good, happiness, welfare, or interests are sufficient to overcome the burden of justification.
We either cannot advance the interests of the individual by compulsion, or the attempt to do so involves evils which outweigh the good done. Hence the promotion of the individual's own interest does not provide a sufficient warrant for use of compulsion. Clearly the operative premise here is 4 , and it is bolstered by claims about the status of the individual as judge and appraiser of his welfare, interests, needs, et cetera: With respect to his own feelings and circumstances, the most ordinary man or woman has means of knowledge immeasurable surpassing those that can be possessed by any one else.
He is the man most interested in his own well-being: the interest which any other person, except in cases of strong personal attachment, can have in it is trifling, compared to that which he himself has. These claims are used to support the following generalizations concerning the utility of compulsion for paternalistic purposes.
The interferences of society to overrule his judgment and purposes in what only regards himself must be grounded on general presumptions; which may be altogether wrong, and even if right, are as likely as not to be misapplied to individual cases.
But the strongest of all the arguments against the interference of the public with purely personal conduct is that when it does interfere, the odds are that it interferes wrongly and in the wrong place.
All errors which the individual is likely to commit against advice and warning are far outweighed by the evil of allowing others to constrain him to what they deem his good.
Performing the utilitarian calculations by balancing the advantages and disadvantages, we find that: "Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each other to live as seems good to the rest. This classical case of a utilitarian argument with all the premises spelled out is not the only line of reasoning present in Mill's discussion.
There are asides, and more than asides, which look quite different and I shall deal with them later. But this is clearly the main channel of Mill's thought and it is one which has been subjected to vigorous attack from the moment it appeared--most often by fellow utilitarians. The link that they have usually seized on is as Fitzjames Stephen put is in Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, the absence of proof that the "mass of adults are so well acquainted with their own interests and so much disposed to pursue them that no compulsion or restraint put upon them by any others for the purpose of promoting their interest can really promote them.
Hart is forced to the conclusion that: In Chapter 5 of his essay [On Liberty] Mill carried his protests against paternalism to lengths that may now appear to us as fantastic. No doubt if we no longer sympathise with his criticism this is due, in part, to a general decline in the belief that individuals know their own interest best. Mill endows the average individual with "too much of the psychology of a middle-aged man whose desires are relatively fixed, not liable to be artificially stimulated by external influences; who know what he wants and what gives him satisfaction or happiness; and who pursues these things when he can.
In his discussion of government intervention in general even where the intervention does not interfere with liberty but provides alternative institutions to those of the market after making claims which are parallel to those just discussed, for example, "People understand their own business and their own interests better, and care for them more, than the government does, or can be expected to do," he goes on to an intelligent discussion of the "very large and conspicuous exceptions" to the maxim that: Most persons take a juster and more intelligent view of their own interest, and of the means of promoting it than can either be prescribed to them by a general enactment of the legislature, or pointed out in the particular case by a public functionary.
Thus there are things of which the utility does not consist in ministering to inclinations, nor in serving the daily uses of life, and the want of which is least felt where the need is greatest.
This is peculiarly true of those things which are chiefly useful as tending to raise the character of human beings. The uncultivated cannot be competent judges of cultivation. Those who most need to be made wiser and better, usually desire it least, and, if they desire it, would be incapable of finding the way to it by their own lights.
A second exception to the doctrine that individuals are the best judges of their own interest, is when an individual attempts to decide irrevocably now what will be best for his interest at some future and distant time. The presumption in favor of individual judgment is only legitimate, where the judgment is grounded on actual, and especially on present, personal experience; not where it is formed antecedently to experience, and not suffered to be reversed even after experience has condemned it.
The upshot of these exceptions is that Mill does not declare that there should never be government interference with the economy but rather that Letting alone, in short, should be the general practice: every departure from it, unless required by some great good, is a certain evil. In short, we get a presumption, not an absolute prohibition. The question is why doesn't the argument against paternalism go the same way? I suggest that the answer lies in seeing that in addition to a purely utilitarian argument Mill uses another as well.
As a utilitarian, Mill has to show, in Fitzjames Stephen's words, that: "Self-protection apart, no good object can be attained by any compulsion which is not in itself a greater evil than the absence of the object which the compulsion obtains. Preventing a man from selling himself into slavery a paternalistic measure which Mill himself accepts as legitimate , or from taking heroin, or from driving a car without wearing seat belts may constitute a lesser evil than allowing him to do any of these things.
A consistent utilitarian can only argue against paternalism on the grounds that it as a matter of fact does not maximize the good. It is always a contingent question that may be returned by the evidence. But there is also a noncontingent argument which runs through On Liberty.
When Mill states that "there is a part of the life of every person who has come to years of discretion, within which the individuality of that person ought to reign uncontrolled either by any other person or by the public collectively," he is saying something about what it means to be a person, an autonomous agent.
It is because coercing a person for his own good denies this status as an independent entity that Mill objects to it so strongly and in such absolute terms. To be able to choose is a good that is independent of the wisdom of what is chosen. A man's "mode of laying out his existence is the best, not because it is the best in itself, but because it is his own mode. As further evidence of this line of reasoning in Mill, consider the one exception to his prohibition against paternalism. In this and most civilised countries, for example, and engagement by which a person should sell himself, or allow himself to be sold, as a slave, would be null and void; neither enforced by law nor by opinion.
The ground for thus limiting his power of voluntarily disposing of his own lot in life, is apparent, and is very clearly seen in this extreme case. The reason for not interfering unless for the sake of others, with a person's voluntary acts, is consideration for his liberty. His voluntary choice is evidence that what he so chooses is desirable, or at least endurable, to him, and his good is on the whole best provided for by allowing him to take how own means of pursuing it.
But by selling himself for a slave, he abdicates his liberty; he foregoes any future use of it beyond that single act. He therefore defeats, in his own case, the very purpose which is the justification of allowing him to dispose of himself.
He is no longer free; but is thenceforth in a position which has no longer the presumption in its favour, that would be afforded by his voluntarily remaining in it. The principle of freedom cannot require that he should be free not to be free. It is not freedom to be allowed to alienate his freedom. Now leaving aside the fudging on the meaning of freedom in the last line, it is clear that part of this argument is incorrect.
While it is true that future choices of the slave are not reasons for thinking that what he chooses then is desirable for him, what is at issue is limiting his immediate choice; and since this choice is made freely, the individual may be correct in thinking that his interests are best provided for by entering such a contract.
But the main consideration for not allowing such a contract is the need to preserve the liberty of the person to make future choices. This gives us a principle--a very narrow one--by which to justify some paternalistic interferences. Paternalism is justified only to preserve a wider range of freedom for the individual in question. How far this principle could be extended, whether it can justify all the cases in which we are inclined upon reflection to think paternalistic measures justified, remains to be discussed.
What I have tried to show so far is that there are two strains of argument in Mill--one straight-forward utilitarian mode of reasoning and one which relies not on the goods which free choice leads to but on the absolute value of the choice itself. The first cannot establish any absolute prohibition but at most a presumption and indeed a fairly weak one given some fairly plausible assumptions about human psychology; the second, while a stronger line of argument, seems to me to allow on its own grounds a wider range of paternalism than might be suspected.
I turn now to a consideration of these matters. VI We might being looking for principles governing the acceptable use of paternalistic power in cases where it is generally agreed that it is legitimate. Even Mill intends his principles to be applicable only to mature individuals, not those in what he calls "non-age. The fact that they lack some of the emotional and cognitive capacities required in order to make fully rational decisions. It is an empirical question to just what extent children have an adequate conception of their own present and future interests but there is not much doubt that there are many deficiencies.
For example, it is very difficult for a child to defer gratification for any considerable period of time. Given these deficiencies and given the very real and permanent dangers that may befall the child, it becomes not only permissible but even a duty of the parent to restrict the child's freedom in various ways. There is however an important moral limitation on the exercise of such parental power which is provided by the notion of the child eventually coming to see the correctness of his parent's interventions.
Parental paternalism may be thought of as a wager by the parent on the child's subsequent recognition of the wisdom of the restrictions. There is an emphasis on what could be called future-oriented consent--on what the child will come to welcome, rather than on what he does welcome. The essence of this idea has been incorporated by idealist philosophers into various types of "real-will" theory as applied to fully adult persons. Extensions of paternalism are argued for by claiming that in various respects, chronologically mature individuals share the same deficiencies in knowledge, capacity to think rationally, and the ability to carry out decisions that children possess.
Hence in interfering with such people we are in effect doing what they would do if they were fully rational. Hence we are not really opposing their will, hence we are not really interfering with their freedom.
The dangers of this move have been sufficiently exposed by Berlin in his Two Concepts of Liberty. I see no gain in theoretical clarity nor in practical advantage in trying to pass over the real nature of the interferences with liberty that we impose on others.
Still the basic notion of consent is important and seems to me the only acceptable way of trying to delimit an area of justified paternalism. Let me start by considering a case where the consent is not hypothetical in nature.
Under certain conditions it is rational for an individual to agree that others should force him to act in ways which, at the time of action, the individual may not see as desirable. If, for example, a man knows that he is subject to breaking his resolves when temptation is present, he may ask a friend to refuse to entertain his requests at some later stage.
A classical example is given in the Odyssey when Odysseus commands his men to tie him to the mast and refuse all future orders to be set free, because he knows the power of the Sirens to enchant men with their songs. Here we are on relatively sound ground in later refusing Odysseus' request to be set free. He may even claim to have changed his mind but, since it is just such changes that he wished to guard against, we are entitled to ignore them. A process analogous to this may take place on a social rather than individual basis.
An electorate may mandate its representatives to pass legislation which when it comes time to "pay the price" may be unpalatable. I may believe that a tax increase is necessary to halt inflation though I may resent the lower pay check each month.
However in both this case and that of Odysseus, the measure to be enforced is specifically requested by the party involved and at some point in time there is genuine consent and agreement on the part of those persons whose liberty is infringed. Such is not the case for the paternalistic measures we have been speaking about.
What must be involved here is not consent to specific measures but rather consent to a system of government, run by elected representatives, with an understanding that they may act to safeguard our interests in certain limited ways. I suggest that since we are all aware of our irrational propensities, deficiencies in cognitive and emotional capacities, and avoidable and unavoidable ignorance, it is rational and prudent for us to in effect take out "social insurance policies.
Now clearly, since the initial agreement is not about specific measures we are dealing with a more-or-less blank check and therefore there have to be carefully defined limits. What I am looking for are certain kinds of conditions which make it plausible to suppose that rational men could reach agreement to limit their liberty even when other men's interest are not affected. Of course as in any kind of agreement schema there are great difficulties in deciding what rational individuals would or would not accept.
Particularly in sensitive areas of personal liberty, there is always a danger of the dispute over agreement and rationality being a disguised version of evaluative and normative disagreement. Let me suggest types of situations in which it seems plausible to suppose that fully rational individuals would agree to having paternalistic restrictions imposed upon them.
It is reasonable to suppose that there are "goods" such as health which any person would want to have in order to pursue his own good--no matter how that good is conceived. This is an argument used in connection with compulsory education for children but it seems to me that it can be extended to other goods which have this character.
Perhaps the most important is: what powers it is legitimate for a state, operating both coercively and in terms of incentives, to possess? It also raises questions about the proper ways in which individuals, either in an institutional or purely personal setting, should relate to one another.
How should we think about individual autonomy and its limits? What is it to respect the personhood of others? What is the trade-off, if any, between regard for the welfare of another and respect for their right to make their own decisions? This entry examines some of the conceptual issues involved in analyzing paternalism, and then discusses the normative issues concerning the legitimacy of paternalism by the state and various civil institutions.
Conceptual Issues The analysis of paternalism involves at least the following elements. It involves some kind of limitation on the freedom or autonomy of some agent and it does so for a particular class of reasons. As with many other concepts used in normative debate determining the exact boundaries of the concept is a contested issue. And as often is the case the first question is whether the concept itself is normative or descriptive.
Is application of the concept a matter for empirical determination, so that if two people disagree about the application to a particular case they are disagreeing about some matter of fact or of definition? Or does their disagreement reflect different views about the legitimacy of the application in question? While it is clear that for some to characterize a policy as paternalistic is to condemn or criticize it, that does not establish that the term itself is an evaluative one.
As a matter of methodology it is preferable to see if some concept can be defined in non-normative terms and only if that fails to capture the relevant phenomena to accept a normative definition.
I suggest the following conditions as an analysis of X acts paternalistically towards Y by doing omitting Z: Z or its omission interferes with the liberty or autonomy of Y. X does so without the consent of Y. X does so only because X believes Z will improve the welfare of Y where this includes preventing his welfare from diminishing , or in some way promote the interests, values, or good of Y.
Condition one is the trickiest to capture. Clear cases include threatening bodily compulsion, lying, withholding information that the person has a right to have, or imposing requirements or conditions.
But what about the following case? A father, skeptical about the financial acumen of a child, instead of bequeathing the money directly, gives it to another child with instructions to use it in the best interests of the first child.
The first child has no legal claim on the inheritance. Or consider the case of a wife who hides her sleeping pills so that her potentially suicidal husband cannot use them.
Her act may satisfy the second and third conditions but what about the first? Does her action limit the liberty or autonomy of her husband? The second condition is supposed to be read as distinct from acting against the consent of an agent.
The agent may neither consent nor not consent. He may, for example, be unaware of what is being done to him. There is also the distinct issue of whether one acts not knowing about the consent of the person in question. Perhaps the person in fact consents but this is not known to the paternaliser. The third condition also can be complicated. There may be more than one reason for interfering with Y. Or what about the case where a legislature passes a legal rule for paternalistic reasons but there are sufficient non-paternalistic reasons to justify passage of the rule?
If, in order to decide on any of the above issues, one must decide a normative issue, e. Ultimately the question of how to refine the conditions, and what conditions to use, is a matter for philosophical judgment. One should decide upon an analysis based on a hypothesis of what will be most useful for thinking about a particular range of problems.
One might adopt one analysis in the context of doctors and patients and another in the context of whether the state should ban unhealthy foods. Given some particular analysis of paternalism there will be various normative views about when paternalism is justified. The following terminology is useful. If he knows, and wants to, say, commit suicide he must be allowed to proceed. A hard paternalist says that, at least sometimes, it may be permissible to prevent him from crossing the bridge even if he knows of its condition.
We are entitled to prevent voluntary suicide. A broad paternalist is concerned with any paternalistic action: state, institutional hospital policy , or individual. So if a person really prefers safety to convenience then it is legitimate to force them to wear seatbelts.
A strong paternalist believes that people may have mistaken, confused or irrational ends and it is legitimate to interfere to prevent them from achieving those ends. If a person really prefers the wind rustling through their hair to increased safety it is legitimate to make them wear helmets while motorcycling because their ends are irrational or mistaken.
Another way of putting this: we may interfere with mistakes about the facts but not mistakes about values. So if a person tries to jump out of a window believing he will float gently to the ground we may restrain him.
If he jumps because he believes that it is important to be spontaneous we may not. The group we are trying to protect is the group of consumers not manufacturers who may not be smokers at all. Our reason for interfering with the manufacturer is that he is causing harm to others. Nevertheless the basic justification is paternalist because the consumer consents assuming the relevant information is available to him to the harm.
It is not like the case where we prevent manufacturers from polluting the air. In pure paternalism the class being protected is identical with the class being interfered with, e. In the case of impure paternalism the class of persons interfered with is larger than the class being protected.
It is things like death or misery or painful emotional states which are in question. Sometimes, however, advocates of state intervention seek to protect the moral welfare of the person.
So, for example, it may be argued that prostitutes are better off being prevented from plying their trade even if they make a decent living and their health is protected against disease. The interference is justified, therefore, to promote the moral well-being of the person. This then can be called moral paternalism. Finally, it is important to distinguish paternalism, whether welfare or moral, from other ideas used to justify interference with persons; even cases where the interference is not justified in terms of protecting or promoting the interests of others.
In particular moral paternalism should be distinguished from legal moralism, i. Not because the dwarf is injured in any way, not because the dwarf corrupts himself by agreeing to participate in such activities, but simply because the activity is wrong. To be sure it is not always easy to distinguish between legal moralism and moral paternalism.
If one believes, as Plato does, that acting wrongly damages the soul of the agent, then it will be possible to invoke moral paternalism rather than legal moralism. Normative Issues Is there a burden of proof attached to paternalism?
Does the paternalist or anti-paternalist have to give a reason for their action? As we have seen the analysis of paternalism seems to cut both ways. It is an interference with liberty which might be thought to place the burden of proof on the paternalist.
It is an act intended to produce good for the agent which might be thought to place the burden of proof on those who object to paternalism. It might be thought, as Mill did, that the burden of proof is different depending on who is being treated paternalistically. If it is a child then the assumption is that, other things being equal, the burden of proof is on those who resist paternalism.
If it is an adult of sound mind the presumption is reversed. Suppose we start from the presumption that paternalism is wrong. The question becomes under what, if any, circumstances, can the presumption be overcome? Essentially it is the view that the fact that an act is intended to be beneficial for a person, and does not affect or violate the interests of others, settles the question of whether it may be done.
Only a view which ignores the means by which good is promoted, and the ethical status of such means, can hold this. Any sensible view has to distinguish between good done to agents at their request or with their consent, and good thrust upon them against their will. So the normative options seem to be just two.
Either we are never permitted to aim at doing good for others against their wishes, and in ways which limit their liberty, or we are permitted to do so. Why might one think that at least the state may never do so? One might think so because of various beliefs about the impossibility of in fact doing good for people against their will or because one thinks that although possible to do good it is in fact inconsistent with some normative standard which ought to prevail.
With respect to the impossibility question one might believe either that it is not possible to do any good by acting paternalistically or that although it is possible to do some good the process will almost always produce bads which outweigh the good.
If one thought that almost always more harm than good is done by the state when it acts paternalistically this raises the question of whether we can distinguish the conditions in which rarely more good than harm is done and build that into our guidelines.
If this is possible, and allowing paternalism in these exceptional cases does not create further harms which outweigh the good produced, then we should sometimes be paternalists. But one might believe that the question of whether more good than harm is produced is not simply an empirical one. It depends on our understanding of the good of persons. If the good simply included items such as longer life, greater health, more income, or less depression, then it makes it look like an empirical issue.
One might believe that one cannot make people better off by infringing their autonomy in the same way that some people believe one cannot make a person better off by putting them in a Nozickian experience machine one in which they are floating in a tank but seem to be having all kinds of wonderful experiences.
Kantian views are frequently absolutistic in their objections to paternalism. On these views we must always respect the rational agency of other persons. To deny an adult the right to make their own decisions, however mistaken from some standpoint they are, is to treat them as simply means to their own good, rather than as ends in themselves. In a way anti-paternalism is already incorporated into Kantian theories by their prohibition against lying and force—the main instruments of paternalistic interference.
Since these instrumentalities are already denied even to prevent individuals from harming others, they will certainly be forbidden to prevent them from harming themselves. Of course, one may object to the former absolutism while accepting the latter. If one believes that sometimes paternalism is justifiable one may do so for various kinds of theoretical reasons. The broadest is simply consequentialist, i. So one might prevent people from taking mind-destroying drugs on the grounds that allowing them to do so destroys their autonomy and preventing them from doing so preserves it.
Note that if the theory of the good associated with a particular consequentialism is broad enough, i. A different theoretical basis is moral contractualism.
On this view if there are cases of justified paternalism they are justified on the basis that we all of us would agree to such interference, given suitable knowledge and suitable motivation. So, for instance, it might be argued that since we know we are subject to depression we all would agree, at least, to short-term anti-suicide interventions, to determine whether we are suffering from such a condition, and to attempt to cure it.
Or we might agree to being forced to wear seat-belts knowing our disposition to discount future benefits for present ones. The justification here is neither consequentialist nor based simply on the preservation of autonomy. Rather either kind of consideration may be taken into account, as well as others, in determining what we would reasonably agree to. Libertarian Paternalism In recent years there has been a new, influential, strand of thought about paternalistic interferences.
It has been referred to as New Paternalism or Libertarian Paternalism. It is influenced by research in the behavioral sciences on the many ways in which our cognitive and affective capacities are flawed and limited. The first theorists to emphasize these findings for making social policy were the Nudgers—Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler They argued that since people were such bad decision makers we should nudge them in the direction of their own desired goals by orchestrating their choices so that they are more likely to do what achieves their ends.
The claim is that, unlike traditional paternalism which rules out choices by compulsion or adds costs to the choices by coercion, nudges simply change the presentation of the choices in such a way that people were more likely to choose options that are best for them. In addition they argue that any arrangement of choices will make some choices more or less likely so that some decision about the choice architecture is inevitable. Here are various examples of Nudges.
These were given in the earliest discussions of nudging and have tended to be the ones focused on. In order to influence students to make healthier food choices as they pass the cafeteria options place the healthy foods at eye level and place the less healthy choices higher or lower than eye level.
Sometimes the nudge involves putting the healthful food earlier in the line. Opt-In vs Opt-Out. Given that many employees often fail to enroll opt-in in retirement plans, employers make the default automatic enrollment in such programs, allowing employees to easily opt-out.
Such programs have been shown to increase savings rates. Save More Tomorrow. Employees are are asked to commit now to having a portion of their salary increase in subsequent years put directly into their pension plan. People are loss averse, and thus more willing to forgo a raise in take-home income then they are to actively re-direct the additional funds they have already received to their retirement accounts each year.
Size of Plates. Using smaller plates in a cafeteria cuts down on the amount of food consumed. Painting Traffic Lanes. In order to get drivers to slow down on a sharp turn the lane lines are painted closer together than usual. This creates the illusion for the drivers that they are driving faster than they actually are and they slow down as a result. The initial examples above served as the focus of much of the early literature. The early critics attempted to distinguish interventions such as Cafeteria from interventions such as merely providing information.
It is clear from more recent writings that the category of nudges is intended to be quite broad. According to Sunstein all the following are nudges: reminders, warnings, a GPS, disclosure of the interest rate of a bank card, any information about what people like you do, simplification of government forms, default rules, subliminal messages urging people to eat healthy food. Examples include the number of choices, whether the choice is opt-in or opt-out, the way in which alternatives are described or presented, the incentives attached to the choices, etc.
Their view is Libertarian because it preserves freedom of choice. No choice is eliminated or made more difficult. Nobody is coerced. The choice set remains the same.Not because the dwarf is injured in any way, not because the dwarf corrupts himself by agreeing to participate in such activities, but simply because the activity is wrong. He knows what he wants and appears to be willing to follow it through. But they seem to have a morally dubious character. As such, it is an important realm of applied ethics. In that sense the nudge is transparent to them. But what about the following case?
The reason we place the healthy foods at eye level is because there is a tendency to choose what is at eye level over options that are not.
So there is a sense in which, if I could convince him of the consequences of his action, he also would not wish to continue his present course of action. Even experienced climbers have accidents. Further it might be argued that even with addictive drugs such as heroin one's normal life plans would not be seriously interfered with if an inexpensive and adequate supply were readily available. The reply will be that this man doesn't wish to be injured and if we could convince him that he is mistaken as to the consequences of his action, he would not wish to perform the action. Not allowing as a defense to a charge of murder or assault the consent of the victim.
Obviously one can think of interferences which have not yet been imposed.
Sunstein, Cass R. Now there are practical steps which a society could take if it wanted to decrease the possibility of suicide--for example not paying social security benefits to the survivors or, as religious institutions do, not allowing persons to be buried with the same status as natural deaths.
So if a person really prefers safety to convenience then it is legitimate to force them to wear seatbelts. But, as some of the examples show, the class of persons whose good is involved is not always identical with the class of persons whose freedom is restricted. I suggest that since we are all aware of our irrational propensities, deficiencies in cognitive and emotional capacities, and avoidable and unavoidable ignorance, it is rational and prudent for us to in effect take out "social insurance policies.
Legal institutions such as contract-making require the cooperation of the community, and enforcement of contracts provides assurances that there will be no abuse of this mutual trust. Introduction The government requires people to contribute to a pension system Social Security. Rather either kind of consideration may be taken into account, as well as others, in determining what we would reasonably agree to. It is irrational to make the decision differently depending on how it is worded.
In these cases compulsion is not used to achieve some benefit which is not recognized to be a benefit by those concerned, but rather because it is the only feasible means of achieving some benefit which is recognized as such by all concerned. One author actually links these background conditions to the definition of Libertarian Paternalism. Now a person contemplating physician-assisted suicide may not seem to be experiencing a weakness of will.