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The Tyranny of UtilityBehavioral Social Science and the Rise of Paternalism$
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Gilles Saint-Paul

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691128177

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691128177.001.0001

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The Tyranny of Utility

Gilles Saint-Paul

Princeton University Press

This concluding chapter discusses two arguments that make the case that empirical relevance of behavioral biases cannot be used to justify an extension of government control over private lives. One general argument against paternalistic policies is that even though people have behavioral problems, they are mature enough to solve them on their own. This argument has two faces. One version is that current incarnations can control the behavior of future ones, specifically by using appropriate contracts that commit those incarnations. Another version is the so-called Coasian view, that incarnations that coexist within the same individual may achieve an efficient outcome by bargaining between themselves. Meanwhile, another class of arguments builds on the political economy critique. It states that while paternalism may help solve behavioral biases on paper, it ignores the actual working of governments.

Keywords:   behavioral biases, government control, paternalistic policies, behavioral problems, Coasian view, political economy critique, paternalism

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