Robert Sugden has recently elaborated upon the case for a normative standard of freedom as „opportunity“ that is supposed to cope with the problem of how to realign normative economics – with its traditional rational choice orientation – with behavioral economics. His approach however lacks psychological substance.
In this comment on Martin Binder, Christian Schubert rejects the view that as a general rule, evolutionary economists should be cautious regarding „libertarian paternalism“ as a new and highly influential policy approach. All that is needed is a constrained version of it.
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.