Cass Sunstein, ‘Forcing People To Choose Is Paternalistic’

It can be paternalistic to force people to choose. Although many people insist on drawing a bright line between active choosing and paternalism, that line is often illusory. Calling for active choosing is a form of libertarian paternalism if people are permitted to opt out of choosing in favor of a default (and in that sense not to choose). By contrast, calling for active choosing is a form of nonlibertarian paternalism insofar as people are actually required to choose. These points have implications for a range of issues in law and policy, suggesting that those who favor active choosing, and insist on it, may well be overriding people’s preferences and thus running afoul of John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle (for better or for worse).

Sunstein, Cass R, Forcing People To Choose Is Paternalistic (November 1, 2016). Missouri Law Review, forthcoming, Symposium on Libertarian Paternalism.

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