Status Quo Bias, Rationality, and Conservatism about Value

Ethics 125 (2):449-476 (2015)
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Many economists and philosophers assume that status quo bias is necessarily irrational. I argue that, in some cases, status quo bias is fully rational. I discuss the rationality of status quo bias on both subjective and objective theories of the rationality of preferences. I argue that subjective theories cannot plausibly condemn this bias as irrational. I then discuss one kind of objective theory, which holds that a conservative bias toward existing things of value is rational. This account can fruitfully explain some compelling aspects of common sense morality, and it may justify status quo bias.

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Jake Nebel
University of Southern California


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