Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Statist Quo Bias


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At first blush, Thaler and Sunstein seem to be proposing that voluntarily helping people to overcome or cope with their rash, ignorant, impulsive selves be called “libertarian paternalism.” Such semantics would only cause confusion and introduce new terminology for things already well served by ordinary language. Upon closer reading, however, we find that they maintain an unconventional distinction between coercive and non-coercive (or voluntary) action, while never making clear how they distinguish coercive from non-coercive action. I suggest that “libertarian paternalism” is really a depredation upon the very distinction between coercive and voluntary action.

Response to this article by Cass R. Sunstein: Response to Klein (EJW, August 2004).