Ingrid M. Paulin, Jenna Clark, & Julie O'Brien
Originally published on December 21, 2018
Here is an excerpt:
Choosing what to do and which approach to take requires making a decision about paternalism, or influencing someone’s behavior for their own good. Every time someone designs policies, products or services, they make a decision about paternalism, whether they are aware of it or not. They will inevitably influence how people behave; there's no such thing as a neutral choice.
Arguments about paternalism have traditionally focused on the extreme ends of the spectrum; you either let people have complete autonomy, or you completely restrict undesirable behaviors. In reality, however, there are many options in between, and there are few guidelines about how one should navigate the complex moral landscape of influence to decide which approach is justified in a given situation.
Traditional economists may argue for more autonomy on the grounds that people will always behave in line with their own best interest. In their view, people have stable preferences and are always weighing the costs and benefits of every option before making decisions. Because they know their preferences better than do others, they should be able to act autonomously to maximize their own positive outcomes.
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