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Saturday, March 30, 2013

For our own good

I have to be honest, I did not read this book. It costs $60 for the kindle edition. It is priced such that the authors does not really want anyone to read this. Perhaps it will be required reading for her students at Bowdoin. Even if they don't have enough common sense to purchase this on their own the power of coercive paternalism can force them to purchase even if free readers refuse to do so.

I did read her website which summarizes the theme of the book:

Against Autonomy is a defense of paternalistic laws; that is, laws that make you do things, or prevent you from doing things, for your own good.  I argue that autonomy, or the freedom to act in accordance with your own decisions, is overrated—that the common high evaluation of the importance of autonomy is based on a belief that we are much more rational than we actually are.  We now have lots of evidence from psychology and behavioral economics that we are often very bad at choosing effective means to our ends.  In such cases, we need the help of others—and in particular, of government regulation—to keep us from going wrong. 
I also read Cass Sunstein's review in the NYT review of books. (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/mar/07/its-your-own-good/?pagination=false). Sunstein is a fan of paternalism and there are elements of his book "Nudge" which do resonate with me. However, it is a big leap to go from the assumption that we are not rational and we make sub-optimal personal decisions to the premise that a government made of similarly irrational creatures should be more broadly charged with nudging us. Sunstein acknowledged in "Nudge" that is is a slippery slope to go from a nudge to a shove. The 20th Century was replete with numerous examples where coercive states moved heavily into the shove domain with frightening loss of human life.

For Conly I have to be fair. I did not read this but I would like to (but not so much as to drop $100 on it).  The price the book is such that it appears you don't want others to actually read it.

You may be shrewder than we think.

1. You can dismiss any critiques assuming that no rational person would actually purchase it for such a ridiculous price and therefore they are criticizing what they did not read.  You do not need to listen to them.

2. For those who actually bought a copy sans coercion, they obviously cannot be rational and their arguments can be dismissed. You should not listen to them.

1 comment:

  1. The comments to the book's author were very funny. And accurate. If I ever publish something that invites criticism I will similarly pre-empt that with an exorbitant price. After all I was certain I was right in the first place or I wouldn't have published it.

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