Asymmetric Paternalism

Topics: Status quo, Rational choice theory, Individual Pages: 3 (1005 words) Published: April 24, 2005
Regulation for Conservatives: Behavioral Economics and the Case for "Asymmetric Paternalism"

To begin to understand this article we must first define what the authors mean by asymmetric paternalism. According to the Oxford Dictionary, asymmetric is without symmetry or not divided equally. The definition of paternalism states that it is behaving in a paternal way or limiting freedom and responsibility by well-meant regulations. The authors state that the paternal regulations discussed are those developed on an individual basis. The regulations are designed so that those that are uneducated in a particular area are greatly benefited by the regulations, and those whom are already educated, or fully rational, are not affected by the regulation.

To explain asymmetric paternalism, the authors divide people into two groups, those who are fully rational, people with goals, preferences and make decision based on those that suit their own best interest, and those who are boundedly rational. The boundedly rational individuals are those who fail to act in their own best interests and fail to use self-control when making choices. The purpose of the article is to help evaluate regulations which are paternalistic and have the regulations designed so that the set limits and boundaries are the boundedly rational, to help them make choices in their best interest and not make mistakes, at the same time not affecting the rational individuals.

The authors focus on four types of policies that demonstrate examples of paternalism, default rules, provision or reframing of information, cooling off period, and the limiting of consumer choices. With defaults, the authors discuss status quo bias. This is the idea that individuals will stick with the status quo, or the existing rather than change even if the cost to change is low. The reasons for this are stated as loss aversion, omission/commission bias, and procrastination. The authors state that the status quo bias effects mostly...
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