In Search of Lost Nudges

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Abstract
This paper discusses the validity of nudges to tackle time-inconsistent behaviours. I show that libertarian paternalism is grounded on a peculiar model of personal identity, and that the argument according to which nudges may improve one’s self-assessed well-being can be seriously questioned. I show that time inconsistencies do not necessarily reveal that the decision maker is irrational: they can also be the result of discounting over the degree of psychological connectedness between our successive selves rather than over time. Time inconsistency can call for paternalism if and only if we accept that an individual is characterised by stable “true” preferences over time-dependent outcomes, and that she is rationally required to make time-consistent choices. This model is descriptively and normatively questionable. I then argue that behavioural findings may still justify paternalistic interventions, but on a non-welfarist basis
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Archival date: 2017-01-08
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2015-05-07

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