Ozimek's Challenge to Paternalists
By Bryan Caplan
Is paternalism a slippery slope or not? People like Thaler insist that it’s not. Adam Ozimek ingeniously explains why disbelievers keep missing the evidence that the slippery slope is all too real. Evidence like… San Francisco’s ban on the Happy Meal:
Defenders of paternalism argue there is no
slippery slope because a) where would we fall from here? and b) why
haven’t we begun sliding yet? I rush to point out paternalism that
targets sugar and salt, and the defenders argue “Well, that’s just good
policy. Let me know when we’ve actually started sliding down the
slippery slope”. What happens is paternalists are forever moving the
goalposts, and declaring the newest ban or tax just reasonable policy.
Their burden of proof demands that that we slide two, three, or four
steps down the slope at once instead of one step at at time, since the
one step we’re taking now is just reasonable.
Better still, Ozimek lays down a bet-like challenge to paternalists:
[I]t would be useful to for critics of the slippery slope theory of
paternalism to demarcate now what future policies would constitute
evidence that they are wrong, because my guess is the point of
demarcation will move right along down the slope with policy. Several
years ago many of today’s critics of slippery slope theory would have
said that an attempt to regulate salt would constitute evidence. But
now, farther down the slope, salt regulation is just sensible policy.
Do any paternalists care to go on the record?
P.S. As usual, turn-about’s fair play. Do any anti-paternalists care to go on the record about the absurd policies our slide will take us to in twenty years?