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Free to Fail? Paternalistic Preferences in the United States

Björn Bartling, Alexander Cappelen, Henning Hermes, Marit Skivenes and Bertil Tungodden
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Marit Skivenes: University of Bergen

No 16151, IZA Discussion Papers from Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)

Abstract: We study paternalistic preferences in two large-scale experiments with participants from the general population in the United States. Spectators decide whether to intervene to prevent a stakeholder, who is mistaken about the choice set, from making a choice that is not aligned with the stakeholders' own preferences. We find causal evidence for the nature of the intervention being of great importance for the spectators' willingness to intervene. Only a minority of the spectators implement a hard intervention that removes the stakeholder's freedom to choose, while a large majority implement a soft intervention that provides information without restricting the choice set. This finding holds regardless of the stakeholder's responsibility for being mistaken about the choice set – whether the source of mistake is internal or external – and in different subgroups of the population. We introduce a theoretical framework with two paternalistic types – libertarian paternalists and welfarists – and show that the two types can account for most of the spectator behavior. We estimate that about half of the spectators are welfarists and that about a third are libertarian paternalists. Our results shed light on attitudes toward paternalistic policies and the broad support for soft interventions.

Keywords: paternalism; libertarian paternalism; welfarism; freedom to choose (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C91 C93 D69 D91 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 59 pages
Date: 2023-05
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe and nep-exp
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Working Paper: Free to Fail? Paternalistic Preferences in the United States (2023) Downloads
Working Paper: Free to Fail? Paternalistic Preferences in the United States (2023) Downloads
Working Paper: Free to Fail? Paternalistic Preferences in the United States (2023) Downloads
Working Paper: Free to fail? Paternalistic preferences in the United States (2023) Downloads
Working Paper: Free to fail? Paternalistic preferences in the United States (2023) Downloads
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