This week I will be blogging Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein's Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness.
Libertarian Paternalism is the wonderful name that Thaler and Sunstein give to their approach to social organization.
Their approach is paternalistic, in that it helps people make choices that will improve their lives - as the people themselves see it. Sometimes, though, we make choices automatically or in the heat of the moment that we would not make if we thought about it. Thus, the paternalism is in setting up our choices to get us to pick what our reflective selves would want - even when we are not being reflective.
Their approach is libertarian, though, in that you can opt out of choosing what the system urges you to choose. You are free to have a different opinion. You are free to make foolish choices. You are free to reject what you know is good for you out of sheer cussedness.
Thaler and Sunstein don't force you to choose what it good for you. But they do nudge.
Libertarian Paternalism, by its seeming union of opposites, ends up centrist.