Friday, April 23, 2010

Libertarian Paternalism Exchange

Cato Unbound has an interesting exchange up between Glen Whitman and Richard Thaler. I get the same impression from Whitman that I mentioned in this morning's post on "pendulum science" and the tendancy to attribute some starkly opposing position to someone you happen to be disagreeing with at the time. That's really bad practice, in my opinion. As Paul Krugman recently wrote: even though we may disagree, it does not follow that we are mirror images of each other. Just because you are especially attached to the free market (or in this case anti-paternalism) doesn't mean that everybody that you don't completely agree with isn't also attached to the free market and anti-paternalism. I haven't followed libertarian paternalism in detail, so I'm not saying that I side with Thaler over Whitman, but he had some good points. I know a lot of people that could take this point of his to heart:

"Finally, it is of course true that I cannot control how my ideas are used, either by those who advocate similar but more intrusive policies, nor by those like Whitman who criticize them by mischaracterizing them. When we say that we only want to help people make better choices as judged by themselves, we mean it. Really. And it is frustrating to constantly have to respond to those who criticize something we do not say or believe."

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