Paternalism, Public Health, and Behavioral Economics: A Problematic Combination
22 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2015 Last revised: 8 Jan 2015
Date Written: January 5, 2015
Some critiques of public health regulations assume that measures directed at industry should be considered paternalistic whenever they limit any consumer choices. Given the presumption against paternalistic measures, this conception of paternalism puts government proposals to regulate industry to the same stringent proof as clearly paternalist proposals to directly regulate individuals for their own benefit. The result is to discourage regulating industry in ways that protect the public from harm and instead to encourage regulating individuals for their own good -- quite the opposite of what one would expect from a rejection of paternalism. Arguments favoring "soft paternalism" to justify some regulatory measures may exacerbate this trend. They can muddy the debate, narrow the range of reasons for regulating industry, and instead encourage harder paternalistic regulation of personal behavior.
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