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The Relentless Subjectivity of Value : Max Borders
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Choice Architects and Planners

Certain economists employ an objective standard of both the good and rationality when doing economics. Consider the basic idea of Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. Their idea is that there is a reasonable middle ground between simply maximizing choices and banning bad choices outright. People should be free to choose, as it were, but only within a more rational "choice architecture" planned by wiser elites. In the end, they will be 'nudged' towards better choices. Thaler and Sunstein write:

The paternalistic aspect lies in the claim that it is legitimate for choice architects to try to influence people's behavior in order to make their lives longer, healthier and better. In other words, we argue for self-conscious efforts, by institutions in the private sector and also by government, to steer people's choices in directions that will improve their lives.4

 

For more on Nudge, see What Nudge Really Says, by David R. Henderson. EconLog, April 8, 2010. For related podcasts see Richard Thaler on Libertarian Paternalism and Ed Glaeser on the Economics of Paternalism with host Russ Roberts on EconTalk.

 

Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, p. 5. Yale University Press, 2008.