Volkswirtschaftslehre

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The paper argues that there are certain parallels between the ideas of ordoliberalism and the framework of limited and open access order (LAO/OAO) as developed by North, Wallis, Webb and Weingast (NWWW): Both approaches focus on the “interdependence of orders”, and both share an emphasis on state capacity in processes of social transition. I also argue that the ideas of the ordoliberals might give impulses for the further development of the LAO/OAO research agenda. Firstly, whereas NWWW mainly deal with the transition process from LAO to OAO, the members of the Freiburg school intensely dealt with the danger that an OAO might revert into an LAO. Accordingly, they spent much effort on developing policy proposals that aimed at preventing such a ‘re-feudalisation’ (Franz Böhm) of society. Secondly, especially when it came to the issue of accomplishing reforms, they also considered the role of informal institutions and beliefs, a topic somewhat neglected in the LAO/OAO-framework in its present form.

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Although the concept of soft paternalism succeeded in drawing attention to the importance of behavioral economics and the effects of „soft“ policy instruments as default rules for influencing behavior, it is argued in this article that soft paternalism can make only a very limited new contribution to consumer policy. „Soft“ policy (governance) instruments and behavioral economics insights can be used without soft paternalism. However, due to its normative vagueness, the concept of soft paternalism cannot offer anything new to the normative justification of paternalism in the case of trade offs with individual liberty, and under what circumstances „soft“ policy instruments should be favored compared to hard ones. Therefore a serious normative discussion about paternalism is still missing.