What is Soft Paternalism, and the Best it has to Offer in the Battle to Quit Smoking
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CitationWhat is Soft Paternalism, and the Best it has to Offer in the Battle to Quit Smoking (2006 Third Year Paper)
AbstractThe behavioral law and economics concept of â€œsoft paternalismâ€ offers a way to satisfy both the American predilection to remain skeptical of paternalistic government regulation and the temptation to take advantage of well-established evidence that people often stray from the traditional assumption of rational behavior and decision-making in fairly predictable ways, by offering policymakers the possibility of crafting regulations and laws aimed towards steering people away from irrational, or boundedly rational, behavior so long as individuals can easily opt-out if they so choose. Of all the proposals introduced and outlined by various academics in the field of behavioral law and economics, a government-sponsored self-regulation regime using customizable cigarette ID cards offers the best of what soft paternalism has to offer. The plan is directed towards an activity that is universally accepted as a â€œbadâ€ and that imposes great costs upon both society and the individual smokers. Smoking offers an example of when behavior and decisions stray from the rational actor model, as smokers display prominent symptoms of self-control and time-inconsistency problems, leading them to make choices that stray from their own personal assessment of what is in their best interest. Moreover, an ID card regime takes advantage of soft paternalism tools that have previously been shown to be highly effective in mitigating boundedly rational behavior, including consciously selected default rules and individually selected pre-commitments. Finally, an ID card system includes the lynchpin of soft-paternalism, libertarian-pleasing opt-outs, by allowing time-consistent smokers who are not smoking due to self-control problems to opt-out of any regulation, allowing them to maximize their own rationally derived personal welfare with minimal inconvenience.
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