Old wine in new casks: libertarian paternalism still violates liberal principles
- 681 Downloads
Libertarian Paternalism (LP) purports to be a kind of paternalism that is “liberty-preserving” and hence compatible with liberal principles. In this paper, I argue against this compatibility claim. I show that LP violates core liberal principles, first because it limits freedom, and secondly because it fails to justify these limitations in ways acceptable to liberal positions. In particular, Libertarian Paternalists argue that sometimes it is legitimate to limit people’s liberties if it improves their welfare. A closer look at the welfare notions used, however, reveals that they respect neither the subjectivity nor the plurality of people’s values. Thus its justification of the liberty-welfare trade-off is not compatible with liberal principles. I conclude that to justify LP policies, one must appeal to traditional paternalistic principles—and thus, there is no categorical difference between “libertarian” and other forms of paternalism.
KeywordsLiberal Position Hyperbolic Discount Arbitrary Power Liberal Principle Libertarian Paternalism
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Berlin I (1969) Two Concepts of Liberty. In four essays on liberty. Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp 118–72Google Scholar
- Bovens L (2009) The ethics of nudge. In: Gruene-Yanoff T, Hansson SOModelling preference change: perspectives from economics, psychology and philosophy. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 207–219Google Scholar
- Broome J (1991) Weighing goods—equality, uncertainty and time. Basil Blackwell, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Dworkin G (2005) Paternalism. In: Edward NZ (ed) The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Winter 2005 Edition). http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2005/entries/paternalism/.
- Gaus GF (1996) Justificatory liberalism: an essay on epistemology and political theory. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Locke J (1975) An essay concerning human understanding. In: Peter H (ed) Nidditch. Oxford, Clarendon Press. First published 1706.Google Scholar
- Rawls J (1971) A theory of justice. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Sunstein CR (2007) Libertarian Paternalism. University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog. http://uchicagolaw.typepad.com/faculty/2007/01/libertarian_pat.html
- Thaler RH, Sunstein CR (2008) Nudge. Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar