Paternalism, Public Health, and Behavioral Economics: A Problematic Combination

22 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2015

See all articles by Wendy K. Mariner

Wendy K. Mariner

Boston University School of Law; Boston University School of Public Health

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 1, 2014

Abstract

Some critiques of public health legislation assume that measures restricting commercial practices should be considered paternalistic whenever they limit any consumer choices. This conception of paternalism puts government proposals to regulate industry to the same proof as 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” exacerbate this trend. Definitions of paternalism grounded in behavioral economics proceed from a flawed premise that muddies debate, narrows the range of reasons for regulating industry, and instead encourages harder paternalistic regulation of personal behavior.

Suggested Citation

Mariner, Wendy K., Paternalism, Public Health, and Behavioral Economics: A Problematic Combination (December 1, 2014). Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 46, No. 5, 2014, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2638397

Wendy K. Mariner (Contact Author)

Boston University School of Law ( email )

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Boston, MA 02215
United States

Boston University School of Public Health ( email )

715 Albany Street
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