The recent death of Eric Garner after an incident with New York police has recently made headlines and sparked controversy about excessive force and police practices. Sources report that police and prosecutors are...
- The Tax Policy Blog
- The Rise of New Paternalism
The Rise of New Paternalism
A good essay in Cato Unbound on new paternalism deserves a read. Whitman argues that a slippery slope beginning with soft paternalism should be a real concern—especially "if policymakers exhibit the same cognitive biases attributed to the people they're trying to help." An excerpt:
New paternalists often present their position as striking a reasonable middle ground between rigid anti-paternalism on the one hand and intrusive "hard" paternalism on the other. But as the list of policies above suggests, this claim to moderation is difficult to sustain.
My claim (along with my frequent coauthor, Mario Rizzo) is that the new paternalism carries a serious risk of expansion. Following its policy recommendations places us on a slippery slope from soft paternalism to hard. This would be true even if policymakers - including legislators, judges, bureaucrats, and voters - were completely rational. But the danger is especially great if policymakers exhibit the same cognitive biases attributed to the people they're trying to help.
The slippery slope is not, of course, the only argument against new paternalism. The slippery slope is not intended as a solo knock-out argument against any and all new-paternalist policies. In some cases, their benefits might be high enough to justify their costs. The key point is that the slippery slope risk must be counted among the relevant costs.
Unfortunately, the very manner in which the new paternalism paradigm has been advanced makes it likely that risk will be ignored.
Subscribe to the Tax Foundation Newsletter
Join the Tax Foundation's fight for sound tax policy Go
About the Tax Policy Blog
The Tax Policy Blog is the official weblog of the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization that has monitored tax policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. Our economists welcome your feedback. If you would like to send an e-mail to the author of a blog post, please click on that person's name to locate his or her e-mail address or visit our staff page here.