Richard Thaler’s Nobel Prize

by Mario Rizzo Richard Thaler has won the Nobel Prize for initiating the behavioral moment in economics. My view of the Nobel Prize in economics is much like Time magazine’s view of its “Person of the Year.” It is awarded to the economist who "for better or for worse... has done the most to influence” … Continue reading Richard Thaler’s Nobel Prize

Military Service and the New Paternalism

by Mario RizzoIn the last few years there has been a small expansion in the number of universities that are reinstating ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) after the cancellation of such programs due to protests against the war in Vietnam. I express no opinion here about whether universities should have ROTC programs. My points here … Continue reading Military Service and the New Paternalism

Student Debt Bubble Side Effect

by Chidem Kurdas Gore Vidal died a few days ago. He was a remarkably erudite author, as any reader of his marvelous historical novels – Burr and Lincoln are just a sample – notices.  He never went to college.  Born in 1925, he joined the army at age 17 and published his first novel before age … Continue reading Student Debt Bubble Side Effect

Regulation Czar’s Net Effect

by Chidem Kurdas Cass Sunstein, the White House regulatory affairs chief, is going back to academia.  It is not clear why he chose this particular time to return to Harvard Law School, leaving behind what looked like an experiment to implement the notions he advocated. Has he made a difference as federal overseer of rulemaking? The record … Continue reading Regulation Czar’s Net Effect

Alcohol and economic “success in life”

by Edward Stringham* Don Boudreaux is a great economist and a consistent defender of letting individuals make economic choices for themselves. Yet I would take a different approach than his recent post that defends drug legalization by criticizing alcohol. Boudreax writes, "But the same is true for alcohol - another drug that ruins many lives … Continue reading Alcohol and economic “success in life”

Elitist Hokum from Krugman

by Chidem Kurdas It has become a standard left-liberal jibe that those complaining of government largesse receive a piece thereof themselves. Such beneficiaries go against their own interest if they favor smaller government—so it is alleged. Thus Paul Krugman in the NYT  largely agrees with Thomas Frank, who attributed apparent red state ingratitude to the exploitation of … Continue reading Elitist Hokum from Krugman

The Real Culprit in Paternalistic Legislation?

by Mario Rizzo Christopher Hitchens, the great journalist and essayist, has died. Mr. Hitchens was not always right but he often was. I saw at the Cato blog a brief piece, posted by David Boaz, that Hitchens wrote on Mayor Bloomberg's Nanny State. (HT: Dave Johnson). It was in reaction to smoking restrictions, but could easily apply, more generally, … Continue reading The Real Culprit in Paternalistic Legislation?

The Attack on Dignity and Moral Autonomy: The Case of Cigarettes

by Mario Rizzo The latest in the paternalistic actions of the federal government are a kind of reductio ad absurdum.  At least this is how it might have seemed ten or fifteen years ago if someone would have said that cigarette-pack health warnings would become graphic pictures designed to horrify the public into not smoking.  … Continue reading The Attack on Dignity and Moral Autonomy: The Case of Cigarettes

Consumer Data: Who Owns It?

by Mario Rizzo Richard Thaler is one of those academics with an excess of nervous energy. He is constantly on the look-out for ways that he and his soft-paternalist sympathizers can tinker around improving our welfare, suitably defined. The latest scheme is to force companies who have gathered data about product usage from particular individuals … Continue reading Consumer Data: Who Owns It?

Kissinger on Bismarck

by Chidem Kurdas A man described as both great and evil, Otto von Bismarck-Schönhausen makes a fascinating study,  as Jonathan Steinberg’s Bismarck: A Life demonstrates.  Henry Kissinger reviewed this biography in the New York Times Book Review, highlighting the diplomatic and political victories the unifier of Germany won through nimble maneuvers. The review is a … Continue reading Kissinger on Bismarck

The Blinders of Behavioral Economics

by Mario Rizzo  At the turn of the new-year the Financial Times published two small articles about why people often do not adhere to their new year’s resolutions. One article was by a philosopher (Julian Baggini) and the other by a psychiatrist (Antonia Macaro). Interestingly, they each seem to focus on whether people really want … Continue reading The Blinders of Behavioral Economics

Could Sarah Palin Be Right?!

by Mario Rizzo   In an editorial the Wall Street Journal criticizes Sarah Palin for criticizing Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign. The point seems to be that such talk from the Ms. Bully Pulpit is innocuous or benign. The writer makes an analogy with Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign.  Now if Michelle Obama were just … Continue reading Could Sarah Palin Be Right?!

Voters’ Best Interest

by Chidem Kurdas Ronald Dworkin, a well-known legal scholar, describes last month’s election results as depressing and puzzling. In a commentary in the New York Review of Books, he asks, “Why do so many Americans insist on voting against their own best interests?”  The New York University law and philosophy professor is not the only … Continue reading Voters’ Best Interest

Two Visions Fuel Political Attacks

by Chidem Kurdas Apparently left-liberal pundits are convinced that people oppose government expansion either out of stupidity or cupidity—not, say, out of a sincere belief in freedom. The oft-repeated story is that ignorant and misguided masses are being led by greedy business interests. Paul Krugman’s recent column is one of  many examples in the genre … Continue reading Two Visions Fuel Political Attacks

Anti-Intellectualism and Freedom

by Chidem Kurdas Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter, a historian who died in 1970, is very much part of politics several decades after it was written. The past two years brought many charges of anti-intellectualism by left-liberals against people on the other side of the political divide.  The latest in Hofstadter-inspired critiques is … Continue reading Anti-Intellectualism and Freedom

When Nudging Isn’t Enough

by Glen Whitman In a New York Times op-ed, George Loewenstein and Peter Ubel argue that policymakers are relying too heavily on behavioral economics, when traditional -- that is, rational choice -- economics would often serve them better. On cursory reading, you might think this op-ed repudiates the facile use of behavioral economics to guide … Continue reading When Nudging Isn’t Enough

New Paternalism, Regulation and Cass Sunstein

by Mario Rizzo The New York Times magazine has an interesting, if somewhat uncritical, article on Cass Sunstein, the Obama regulation czar. The "best" part is the section about me: Some scholars dislike the strong, if subtle, governmental hand that is embedded in this last proposal. It seems more forceful than a nudge. “Once you get … Continue reading New Paternalism, Regulation and Cass Sunstein

All Decisionmaking is Doomed to Failure: Questions for the Bias Industry

by Mario Rizzo   Behavioral economists have an embarrassment of biases. They have discovered many cognitive and behavioral biases which plague human decisionmaking. By one count there are nearly a hundred of them.   A cognitive bias is a systematic departure from rational decisionmaking. For example, a person may react differently if he is told that a … Continue reading All Decisionmaking is Doomed to Failure: Questions for the Bias Industry

New Paternalism: Odds & Ends

by Glen Whitman The Cato Unbound discussion on new paternalism has come to a close, but I want to address a few loose ends that came up during the exchange. The Demand for Evidence Richard Thaler has demanded empirical evidence that the new paternalism has led to slippery slopes. Given that the new paternalism is … Continue reading New Paternalism: Odds & Ends

Threats to Individual Autonomy: ObamaCare, Salt and Sugar

by Mario Rizzo   I love-hate the word “progressive.” Its political uses derive from the so-called Progressive Era and the less-than-socialist reforms that were enacted during that early twentieth-century period.   Today, of course, few people who use the term think about its historical origins. They think it is simply a word that means “advanced,” “better,” – … Continue reading Threats to Individual Autonomy: ObamaCare, Salt and Sugar

Cafeteria Marvels

 by Mario Rizzo   The market is a “marvel.” What does that mean? According to Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Roman orator and senator, a marvel is something contrary to or surpassing common understanding.   In that sense, the market is a true marvel – so much so that it even surpasses the understanding of many economists.   Richard … Continue reading Cafeteria Marvels

The Most Important Thing You Can Read

by Mario Rizzo My frequent coauthor, Glen Whitman, has the lead essay on new paternalism at Cato Unbound this month. There will be responses by Richard Thaler (Chicago), Jonathan Klick (U of Penn), Shane Frederick (Yale). This is the most important thing you can read this month -- better than anything anywhere else in the blogosphere, … Continue reading The Most Important Thing You Can Read

Hayek’s Knowledge Problem, as Applied to New Paternalism

by Glen Whitman Mario Rizzo and I have recently published another article on the new paternalism, titled "The Knowledge Problem of New Paternalism," in the BYU Law Review. (Mario briefly blogged about it here.)  The article lacks an abstract, but here's a lightly edited portion of the introduction: The “new paternalism” spawned by behavioral economics … Continue reading Hayek’s Knowledge Problem, as Applied to New Paternalism

New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 11: Avoiding Paternalist Slopes

by Glen Whitman This will be the final installment in my series of excerpts from Mario’s and my article on the slippery-slope potential of new paternalism. The comments on the posts have been minimal, so I’m uncertain how helpful this series has been. Since I’m considering doing the same with a closely related article Mario … Continue reading New Paternalism on the Slippery Slopes, Part 11: Avoiding Paternalist Slopes