"[W]e need principles by which to choose what degree of paternalism is appropriate in what context."


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I thought they were arguing about principles regarding paternalism! Can you give a quick sketch or outline of what those principles would be like? I can't think where to even start with such a task. Do we need to assume a shared goal? Do we examine specific scenarios re: paternalism separately? How do we adjust for the fact that some people dislike paternalism itself?

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I've like Thaler's idea that we set the default we think in someone's best interest, but without preventing or discouraging people from choosing whatever other option they like if they don't like the default.

The principle that 'paternalism' should be much more acceptable as long as it doesn't preclude certain choices seems like a good one. It would much reduce the potential downside in the case of government incompetence (at most people are inconvenienced by having to reject the default).

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"until we get a real alternative" should be "until we build a real alternative"

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Is this a case where a democracy might function better than the experts? Voters do not seem to have much preferences for less or more paternalism in the abstract (even if they claim to have them, they rarely vote as if they did). They are in favour of certain ones and against others, based mainly on how they feel it affects them.

Voters are of course, ignorant and lacking understanding and perpective, but they at least give a more nuanced view of paternalisms than good/bad - and, until we get a real alternative, it could be best to just follow voters and politician's preferrences on these issues.

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Once we go down this road, we start getting past ideology, and start getting to policy. Suddenly we're not talking about Libertarianism, Socialism, Social Democracy, or Capitalism. We're talking "rational/empirical based policy-making" that uses whatever tests and tools will work to reach our ultimate goals, whatever we define them to be.

It's the very antithesis of "process legitimizes outcome" policy-making. Instead, we:

- Will try to use the proper mix of public and private institutions, ownership, power, market solutions and non-market solutions, and actors

- Will try to use the proper mix of centralization and decentralization

- Will try to use the proper amount of regulation or lack thereof

How does this differ from the real world, where things are already "mixed"? Goals first, then process. Right now, we have this seemingly chaotic mix of conflicting goals and desire to use varying processes at the municipal, state, and national level. We're still fighting over things like ALL PATERNALISM BAD! ALL PATERNALISM GOOD! MARKETS ALWAYS BAD! MARKETS ALWAYS GOOD!

I'm all for passionate debate and serious rational inquiry into the proper solutions to problem X, with constant renegotiation of the proper mix of things to fix that problem or meet that goal, but we haven't gotten even past the basics. It's so ugly and dishonest. Instead, we should be talking about using everything where it's appropriate: "For goal X, unregulated markets work best. Let's use those unless something proves we should change it" "For goal Y, state administration and distribution work best. Let's use those until something proves we should change it". We'd rather waste time punching each other in the knee and blindly quoting dead radicals.

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That 'Twelve Against the Gods' guy had a few remarks on how female voters want a government that acts like Big Daddy.

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