Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Richard Thaler, co-author of Nudge, provides a well-argued response to Glen Whitman's critique of libertarian paternalism.

...the risk of the slippery slope appears to be a figment of Professor Whitman’s imagination, and clear evidence of his bathmophobia. To be fair to him, this phobia is hardly unique to him and Professor Rizzo. Slope-mongering is a well-worn political tool used by all sides in the political debate to debunk any idea they oppose. For example, when the proposal was made to replace the draft with an all-volunteer army, the opponents said this would inevitably lead to all kinds of disastrous consequences because we were turning our military into a band of mercenaries. The argument is perfectly versatile. If we allow (blacks, women, gays. . . .) into the military then (fill in the awful but inevitable consequence here). If we allow free speech then we will give voice to the next Hitler.
Instead of slope-mongering we should evaluate proposals on their merits. (We devote a chapter of Nudge to an evaluation of the choice architecture used in Sweden’s social security experience.) Helping people make better choices, as judged by themselves, is really not a controversial goal, is it?


The Conservative Wahoo said...

So Thaler's argument is essentially, since not all slopes are slippery, none should be considered that way EVEN when past history shows a predilection for slipperiness. Not buying it.

"The Hammer" said...

I stop reading when I came to "bathmophobia".

Newer Post Older Post Home