The Case for Ends Paternalism
Acland, D. (2018). Review of Behavioral Economics, 5(1), 1-22.
Le Grand and New, in their recent book, “Government Paternalism: Nanny State or Helpful Friend,” present a novel definition of paternalism and a framework for thinking about whether any given paternalistic policy can be considered justifiable. I show that their framework is flawed in that it restricts justifiable paternalism to that which is intended to alter individuals’ judgment about the means they use to pursue their self-determined ends. I show that the principles they use to justify certain kinds of means paternalism also justify certain kinds of ends paternalism. In particular, when there is a body of rigorous social-science evidence that individuals select ends that they themselves, if they had adequate information or experience would prefer not to pursue, and when other conditions are met, ends paternalism may be considered to improve the wellbeing of the individual as determined by the individual themselves. I present examples of policies that could be justified under this framework, and offer cautionary notes.