On Making and Remaking Ourselves and Others: Mill to Jevons and Beyond on Rationality, Learning, and Paternalism.




The approach to human behavior and choice by Mario Rizzo and Glen Whitman in Escaping Paternalism: Rationality, Behavioral Economics, and Public Policy, has much in common with that of John Stuart Mill and Philip Wicksteed and departs from the “standard” neoclassical account developed by William Stanley Jevons. I connect the Rizzo-Whitman case for limited paternalism to Mill’s methodological approach and the no harm principle. Mill’s methodology and his emphasis on how people learn via making choices, are consistent with the Rizzo-Whitman approach. Mill’s no harm principle further bolsters their case. In marked contrast with Mill, and like the prescriptive paternalists with whom RW take issue (p. 280), Jevons was confident that he knew how his subjects should act; if they failed to fulfill his conditions for equilibrium spending, he was ready and willing to recommend policies to correct the so-called improvidence and immorality of the laboring classes.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1561/105.00000140.