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Abstract

It can be paternalistic to force people to choose. Often people do not wish to choose, but both private and public institutions ask or force them to do so, thus overriding their wishes. As a result, people’s autonomy may be badly compromised and their welfare may be greatly reduced. These points have implications for a range of issues in law and policy, suggesting that those who favor active choosing, and insist on it, may well be overriding people’s preferences and values, and thus running afoul of John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle (for better or for worse). People have limited mental bandwidth, and forcing choices can impose a hedonic or cognitive tax. Sometimes that tax is high.

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