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The authors of our own lives: the limitations of the behavioural justification for paternalism

Oliver, Adam (2023) The authors of our own lives: the limitations of the behavioural justification for paternalism. Behavioural Public Policy, 7 (4). 924 - 932. ISSN 2398-063X

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Identification Number: 10.1017/bpp.2023.6


In this article, the confidence that has been placed in hard and, in particular, soft paternalistic measures in the field of behavioural public policy is questioned. The four purported limitations of human reasoning – i.e. limited imagination, willpower, objectivity and technical ability – are considered, but ultimately it is concluded that these are insufficient justifications for paternalistic intervention, for two principal related reasons. First, it is impossible for a policy maker to discern what people desire for their own lives, and second, so long as they are not harming others, people ought to be free to pursue their own desires. The vision for the future of behavioural public policy proposed here is thus consistent with classical liberal, and in particular, Millian thought: i.e. aim to educate people on the pros and cons of their actions and inactions so that they are better equipped to live the lives they wish to lead, but do not interfere directly in guiding them towards any particular end.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2023 14:57
Last Modified: 26 May 2024 16:03

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