Your Rational Self vs. Your Irrational Self
Last week, I talked about Hegel’s odd view that freedom consists of service to the state, and an earlier column discussed a problem with the use of behavioral economics to support “libertarian paternalism.” Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, the main libertarian paternalists, get into difficulties that Hegel would enable them to avoid. As we’ll see, though, if they were to accept Hegel’s help, they would pay a heavy price.
Thaler and Sunstein think that measures like high taxes on cigarettes and restrictions on the size of soda cans don’t restrict your freedom. They aren’t interfering with what you want to do. You might think at first that they are interfering. You want to smoke, and the high taxes make it more difficult than before to do so. It is more inconvenient now to drink large amounts of soda, because you have to buy more cans than you did before the ban.
Thaler and Sunstein say that appearances are deceiving. You also want good health. Smoking causes lung cancer and other diseases, and drinking large amounts of soda can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other health problems. Part of what they are saying seems reasonable. Probably almost no smokers or soda drinkers want poor health. Controversies about the medical effects of consuming these products we can ignore.
Now comes the crucial step in their argument, which is a cruder version of the principle Kant advanced: “Whoever wills the end also wills (in so far as reason has decisive influence on his actions) the indispensably necessary means to it that is in his control.” The authors reason in this way: because you don’t want lun
Article from Mises Wire