Soft Paternalism

This post on ‘soft paternalism’ on my friend David’s blog. It is quite intriguing – if you don’t have time to read, the gist is: due to the fact that humans don’t often carefully consider all points on an issue, maybe an option is to have the default option offered to people (e.g. whether to contribute to a 401k at work) be an experts best choice (e.g. yes.), and have people have to opt out or change their option if they wish. Read the post for more details.

I like it. We all rely on experts we trust to shape our opinions anyway, mixed in with direct experience, etc, but still – if we are making an educated decision we have relied on other’s thinking and research to help us out. The applications seem intriguing. Given that as a landlord I have paternalistic control of some people’s lives, I will have to investigate the options for soft paternalism – setting the defaults. I am not good with forcing other people to live a certain way, even when I do have some control – I could have the washing machine only hooked up to cold water, but I can’t bring myself to do that yet. As an unintentional foray into soft paternalism, I try to always push in the ‘cold’ button on the washing machine when it has been left somewhere else, but it is pretty easy to change that option – I’ll have to think about this and be even more creative!


3 responses to “Soft Paternalism

  1. I think “soft paternalism” is in many ways directly analogous to the framing of communications. There has to be a default, and any default you choose represents some kind of value judgment, so you might as well pick a default that represents your desired outcome. And it need be no more coercive than the current default.

  2. I see communist paternalism as a clear end point of this “selecting cold water” thing you are on to. They thought it was a great idea to select things for people too. It was called a command economy. I’ll get you a nice chairman Mao jacket and cap for the winter.
    Oh, and Sully says that in Star Trek they all wear one outfit (something about less need for cleaning and polyesther, but that falls apart when you consider the pit stink that comes with synthetic– Sully suggests you try hemp– fewer clothes, less to launder, soft paternalism). I’m having far too much fun with this post…

  3. Oh, I’m on to the low clothes volume already! I wear each pair of pants for at _least_ 4 days before a wash (changing to the dirty work pants for gardening/digging), and each t-shirt for about 3 days (even cotton doesn’t keep off the pit-stink forever! – especially when I only bathe every 3 days or so), then I have three button up dress shirts for summer and some sweaters for winter and I just rotate through those to convince coworkers I am changing my clothes. I almost never wash these over-shirts. I do a load of laundry in cold about every 2 weeks, hang dry. Gil is a pretty good nose, and so I don’t think I am generally too offensive or scruffy.
    Lets just say not all of my tenants or even family members are at this minimum level of laundry yet 🙂 That’s ok though!

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