The Behavioral Welfare Economist in Society: Considerations from David Hume

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See all articles by Erik W. Matson

Erik W. Matson

Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Malte F. Dold

Pomona College - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 7, 2021

Abstract

We draw on David Hume’s essays on happiness to extend ideas about welfare, preferences, and the social role of behavioral welfare economists in Mario Rizzo and Glen Whitman’s (2020) Escaping Paternalism. Through literary dialogue, Hume illustrates that individuals have different perspectives on the good life. These perspectives cannot be resolved by the philosopher or the economist. Hume’s sensibilities dovetail with Rizzo and Whitman’s notion of inclusive rationality, which implies an open-ended conception of welfare. Hume’s dialogical treatment of the good life has political implications. We take these implications to be a useful expression of Rizzo and Whitman’s “paternalism-resisting framework.” The paper concludes with a discussion of Hume’s vision of the proper role of the philosopher in society. That vision extends Rizzo and Whitman’s sense that the behavioral economist ought to view herself as a friendly social advisor in conversation with fellow citizens.

Keywords: David Hume; behavioral economics; welfare; paternalism; rhetoric of behavioral economics

JEL Classification: B12, D91, I31

Suggested Citation

Matson, Erik W. and Dold, Malte F., The Behavioral Welfare Economist in Society: Considerations from David Hume (January 7, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=

Erik W. Matson (Contact Author)

Mercatus Center at George Mason University ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

Malte F. Dold

Pomona College - Department of Economics ( email )

Claremont, CA 91711
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.pomona.edu/directory/people/malte-dold

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