Libertarian Paternalism, Manipulation, and the Shaping of Preferences

Social Theory and Practice 41 (4):618-643 (2015)
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“Libertarian paternalism” aims to harness cognitive biases in order to improve prudential decision-making. Some critics have objected that libertarian paternalism is wrongly manipulative. I argue that this objection is mostly unsuccessful. First, I point out that some strategies endorsed by libertarian paternalists can help people to better appreciate reasons. Second, I develop an account of manipulation according to which an agent manipulates her target by worsening the target’s deliberative position. The means of influence defended by libertarian paternalists—for instance, the judicious use of default rules—are not manipulative in this way.



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Jason Hanna
Northern Illinois University

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