February 03, 2007
PATERNALIST SLOPES: " A growing literature in law and public policy harnesses research in behavioral economics to justify a new form of paternalism. Contributors to this literature typically emphasize the modest, non-intrusive character of their proposals. . . . We argue that the new paternalism exhibits many characteristics identified by the slopes literature as conducive to slippery slopes. Specifically, the new paternalism exhibits considerable theoretical and empirical vagueness, making it vulnerable to slopes resulting from altered economic incentives, enforcement needs, deference to perceived authority, bias toward simple principles, and reframing of the status quo. These slope processes are especially likely when decisionmakers are subject to cognitive biases -- as the new paternalists insist they are. Consequently, soft paternalism can pave the way for harder paternalism. We conclude that policymaking based on new paternalist reasoning should be considered with greater trepidation than its advocates have suggested." (Via Larry Solum).