Monday, April 10, 2006

A new breed of paternalists is seeking to promote virtue and wisdom by default. Be wary.

The latest issue of The Economist has, as its cover story, The 'Soft Paternalism' of the state. Those who want to oversee our health and virtue!
Here's an excerpt:

But a new breed of policy wonk is having second thoughts. On some of the biggest decisions in their lives, people succumb to inertia, ignorance or irresolution. Their private failings—obesity, smoking, boozing, profligacy—are now big political questions. And the wonks think they have an ingenious new answer—a guiding but not illiberal state.

What they propose is “soft paternalism” (see article). Thanks to years of patient observation of people's behaviour, they have come to understand your weaknesses and blindspots better than you might know them yourself. Now they hope to turn them to your advantage. They are paternalists, because they want to help you make the choices you would make for yourself—if only you had the strength of will and the sharpness of mind. But unlike “hard” paternalists, who ban some things and mandate others, the softer kind aim only to skew your decisions, without infringing greatly on your freedom of choice. Technocrats, itching to perfect society, find it irresistible. What should the supposed beneficiaries think?

The Link:

1 comment:

Michael Neibel said...

Sounds likethey wantto be kinder, gentler dictators!