Monday, December 04, 2006


My Cato Policy Analysis on internalities is quoted in the New York Times:
But why, some skeptics ask, should the government side with your prudent long-run self against your hedonistic short-run selves? What’s so great about the long-run self, anyway? As the economist Glen Whitman has observed in a shrewd critique of soft paternalism, the harms that selves impose on one another are reciprocal: “The long-run self can harm the short-run self by adopting self-control devices — such as flushing cigarettes down the toilet, refusing to allow ice cream in the house, checking into a clinic and so on.” It is not good to be profligate, lazy and obese, but neither is to [sic] good to be a miser, a workaholic or an anorexic.
Interestingly, the Times author seizes on the same point that the Economist did. I made various other arguments in my paper, but apparently the idea that your short-run self can be harmed by your long-run self is the one that resonates.


Jason Bontrager said...

I was (and still am) reading that article when I saw your name. Thought to myself "hey! I know that guy!...Kewl!":-)

I'd congratulate you, but given my opinion of the NYT I should probably offer my condolences instead:-P.

Jason Bontrager said...

Having finished the article now I have to say that the writer's conclusion, that soft paternalism is, on balance, a good thing, is flawed. He either overlooks, or choosed to disregard, the financial and opportunity costs associated with state-backed self-binding.

Arresting someone who's violated the blacklist that he's put himself on means that the police officer and police resources that are being used are NOT being used to arrest or investigate actual crimes. Instead, police are reduced to the status of nannies, and resources which could be better used to protect society at large are instead used to protect individuals from themselves.