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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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Post-Utilitarianism: Searching for a Collective Soul in the Behavioral Era

Post-Utilitarianism: Searching for a Collective Soul in the Behavioral Era

(p.65) 6 Post-Utilitarianism: Searching for a Collective Soul in the Behavioral Era
The Tyranny of Utility

Gilles Saint-Paul

Princeton University Press

This chapter presents the post-utilitarian paradigm, which is defined as the attempt to reconstruct social preferences when individuals have behavioral issues. It highlights four possibilities, each of which is a potential solution to the problem of defining an objective for public policy in a world without well-defined preferences. First, one may want to reinterpret behavioral biases so as to make them compatible with the standard framework by interpreting them as rational phenomena or as a subjective form of an externality. A second approach considers each individual as made up of multiple selves and then simply aggregates the utility of all incarnations in society. A third possibility is to give up on aggregating utility and consider as legitimate only policies that improve the welfare of all incarnations, that is, Pareto-improving policies. Finally, a fourth possibility is to redefine the social welfare function as the total flow of happiness in society, irrespective of any notion of individual choice.

Keywords:   post-utilitarian paradigm, social preferences, behavioral issues, public policy, behavioral biases, rational phenomena, externality, incarnations, utility, Pareto improvements

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