Guest blogger Bart Wilson is signing off, for now.  He’s been one of my favorite experimental economists for the last decade, and I’ve been pleased to see him bring his unique perspective to EconLog over the past month. 

Out of all Bart’s posts, “The Error of Utilitarian Behavioral Economics” is probably my favorite.  If poor decision-making is as ubiquitous as behavioral economists claim, why isn’t as big as Facebook?  Bart points to an experimental resolution: People like being in control of their own lives – and gladly accept lower-quality outcomes to avoid being under other people’s thumbs.  Thus, while behavioral economics is usually seen as pro-paternalism (or at least, in Cass Sunstein’s words, “anti-anti-paternalism“), experiments reveal two offsetting behavioral effects.

First, people often make systematically bad decisions.

Second, people value their right to make their own decisions – even if they know their decisions are systematically bad.

Farewell, Bart.  While it’s sad to see you go, we can all hope you don’t stay away from the blogosphere for long.

P.S. I hear Bart has one last post in the works.