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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 41, Issue 4, October 2015
Preference, Choice, and (Libertarian) Paternalism

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Displaying: 1-10 of 15 documents


1. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 41 > Issue: 4
Kalle Grill, Danny Scoccia, Introduction
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2. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 41 > Issue: 4
Robert Sugden, Looking for a Psychology for the Inner Rational Agent
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Research in psychology and behavioral economics shows that individuals’ choices often depend on “irrelevant” contextual factors. This presents problems for normative economics, which has traditionally used preference-satisfaction as its criterion. A common response is to claim that individuals have context-independent latent preferences which are “distorted” by psychological factors, and that latent preferences should be respected. This response implicitly uses a model of human action in which each human being has an “inner rational agent.” I argue that this model is psychologically ungrounded. Although references to latent preferences appear in psychologically based explanations of context-dependent choice, latent preferences serve no explanatory purpose.
3. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 41 > Issue: 4
William Glod, How Nudges Often Fail to Treat People According to Their Own Preferences
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I focus on “prima facie problematic” (PFP) nudges to argue that libertarian paternalism often fails in its promise to track target agents’ own normative standards. I argue that PFP nudges are unjustified to significant numbers of people by virtue of autonomy-based defeaters—what I call “self-determination” and “discretion.” I then argue that in many cases, we face informational constraints on what a person’s good really is. In such cases, these nudges may not even benefit a significant number of agents and so fail even to be paternalistic—where “paternalistic” is a success term—for those they fail to benefit.
4. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 41 > Issue: 4
Jason Hanna, Libertarian Paternalism, Manipulation, and the Shaping of Preferences
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“Libertarian paternalism” aims to harness cognitive biases in order to improve prudential decision-making. Some critics have objected that libertarian paternalism is wrongly manipulative. I argue that this objection is mostly unsuccessful. First, I point out that some strategies endorsed by libertarian paternalists can help people to better appreciate reasons. Second, I develop an account of manipulation according to which an agent manipulates her target by worsening the target’s deliberative position. The means of influence defended by libertarian paternalists—for instance, the judicious use of default rules—are not manipulative in this way.
5. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 41 > Issue: 4
Andrés Moles, Nudging for Liberals
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In this article I argue that anti-perfectionist liberals can accept nudging in certain areas: in particular, they can accept nudges aimed at helping people to discharge their nonenforceable duties, and to secure personal autonomy. I claim that nudging is not disrespectful since it does not involve a comparative negative judgment on people’s ability to pursue their plans, and that the judgments that motivate nudging are compatible with treating citizens as free and equal. I also claim that despite being sometimes manipulative, nudging is easy to resist and so it can be employed to pursue legitimate goals.
6. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 41 > Issue: 4
Richard J. Arneson, Nudge and Shove
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This essay reexamines the idea of paternalism and the basis for finding it objectionable in light of recent writings on “libertarian paternalism.” Suggestion: to qualify as paternalistic, an interference that restricts someone’s liberty or interferes with her choice-making with the aim of helping the individual must be contrary to that very individual’s will. A framework for determining the justifiability of paternalistic action is proposed, under the assumption that the individual has a personal prerogative, up to a point, to engage in less than maximally beneficial action. Beyond that point, the content of the will of the individual disposed against interference can extinguish the presumptive wrongness of paternalism.
7. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 41 > Issue: 4
Kalle Grill, Respect for What?: Choices, Actual Preferences, and True Preferences
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As liberals, we would like each person to direct her own life in accordance with her will. However, because of the complexities of the human mind, it is very often not clear what a person wills. She may choose one thing though she prefers another, while having false beliefs the correction of which would cause her to prefer some third thing. I propose, against this background, that to respect a person’s will or self-direction is to respect both her choices and her preferences, with some priority given to those preferences that are informed and coherent. This is a pluralist answer to the neglected question, “respect for what?”
8. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 41 > Issue: 4
Torbjörn Tännsjö, Context-Dependent Preferences and the Right to Forgo Life-Saving Treatments
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A member of Jehovah’s Witnesses agreed to receive blood when alone, but rejected it once the elders were present. She insisted that the elders should stay, they were allowed to do so, and she bled to death. Was it all right to allow her to have the elders present when she made her final decision? Was it all right to allow her to bleed to death? It was, according to an anti-paternalist principle, which I have earlier defended on purely utilitarian grounds. The thrust of the present argument is that the principle stands even in cases with context-sensitive preferences. However, my utilitarian argument to this effect must now rely on something other than J.S. Mill’s standard presumption that in most cases the individual makes the right choices for herself. A reference to the general trust in the system of healthcare is essential to the utilitarian defense of the anti-paternalistic principle.
9. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 41 > Issue: 4
Sven Ove Hansson, Mill’s Circle(s) of Liberty
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J.S. Mill’s advocacy of liberty was based only in part on his harm principle. He also endorsed two other principles that considerably extend the scope of liberty: first, a principle of individual liberty that is based on the value of positive freedom and of developing individuality, and second, a principle of free trade or economic freedom that is based on the value of economic efficiency. An analysis is offered of how these three principles are combined in Mill’s account of liberty and how they connect with his antipaternalism. It is proposed that his appeal in On Liberty to positive freedom and the development of individuality provides a uniting principle that makes his view on liberty cohere with his utilitarianism.
book reviews
10. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 41 > Issue: 4
Daniel A. Dombrowski, Tom Bailey and Valentina Gentile (eds.), Rawls and Religion
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