Evolving Hierarchical Preferences and Behavioral Economic Policies

36 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2018

See all articles by Jan Schnellenbach

Jan Schnellenbach

BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, Institute for Economics, Chair for Microeconomics; Walter Eucken Institute

Date Written: September 12, 2018


This paper critically discusses the standard concept of hierarchical preferences, which presupposes that a stable system of higher- and lower-order preferences exists, wherein the former contains an individual's fundamental purposes and values, while the latter guides everyday choices. It is argued that systems of hierarchical preferences suffer from problems similar to those of standard preferences, in terms of rationality, that they also are potentially unstable and can change, for example, in response to individual experiences. It is furthermore argued that higher-order preferences may not be coherent internally, because their different parts result from different kinds of reasoning. Finally, it is argued that behavioral economic policies, such as soft paternalism, easily can endanger the autonomy and integrity of an individual as a person.

Keywords: Hierarchical Preferences, Multiple Selves, Internalities, Behavioral Policies, Paternalism, Nudge

JEL Classification: D11, D18, D63, D83, H11, Z18

Suggested Citation

Schnellenbach, Jan, Evolving Hierarchical Preferences and Behavioral Economic Policies (September 12, 2018). Public Choice, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3248353 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3248353

Jan Schnellenbach (Contact Author)

BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, Institute for Economics, Chair for Microeconomics ( email )

Erich-Weinert-Str. 1
Cottbus, 03046

HOME PAGE: http://www.b-tu.de/fg-vwl-mikro/team/prof-dr-jan-schnellenbach

Walter Eucken Institute ( email )

Goethestr. 10
Freiburg, 79100

HOME PAGE: http://www.eucken.de

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