Friday, April 01, 2005

Klein answers Thaler-Sunstein

As you might have noticed, I mentioned the Thaler-Sunstein "theory" on "libertarian paternalism" many times already (here and here are examples). I think it's a good paper, but at the same time, the term "libertarian paternalism" sounds like an oxymoron -- even though Thaler and Sunstein denounce it. Now comes a rebuttal from Daniel Klein. Klein accuses Thaler and Sunstein to confuse the terms libertarianism and paternalism (and the "oxymoronic gimmick", henceforth) with benevolence. The dessert placement in TS paper, arues Klein, has nothing to do with libertarianism or paternalism -- it is a mere benevolence. Klein goes on to take Thaler-Sunstein way of argument so as to fit with whatever: libertarian socialism, libertarian communism, libertarian dirigisme (sic!), or libertarian repression. To Klein, paternalism involves coercion. And that is where it is diametrical to libertarianism -- hence "libertarian paternalism" is non-existent.

My take: It is tempting to then replace the l-p with "benevolence" and that would fit the examples in T-S paper. But, I would have asked Klein, what should we call government planning endorsed by the house of representatives?
Looking forward to T-S's reply. Or better yet, some words from the rhetoric expert, Dee McCloskey.

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