Jacob Goldin


In many settings, people’s choices vary based on seemingly arbitrary features of the choice environment. Policies that manipulate these features to improve decision-makers’ well-being are paternalistic – unless one takes the unrealistic view that these features are relevant from the perspective of the choosers’ preferences. In such settings, I propose that policy design can be less paternalistic if the only people assumed to be making mistakes are those whose choices are observed to vary based on the arbitrary feature of the choice environment. I discuss several characteristics of such “quasi-paternalistic” policy design and conclude by applying the principle of quasi-paternalism to the policy choice of nudges versus mandates.

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