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Abstract : In this article I address the question of the moral legitimacy of paternalism. Paternalism is considered illegitimate a when it acts under false pretenses to satisfy the interest of the paternalist agent, b when it violates the individual autonomy of the people interfered with and c when it does not respect the equality between people by singling out those who are deemed unable to decide for themselves. Over the last decade a new type of paternalism has emerged thanks to the groundbreaking works of some behavioral economists. This new type of paternalism, that I call here Behavioral Paternalism BP, has become popular through Sunstein and Thaler-s Nudges theory and challenges the view that paternalism is unacceptable today. The aim of this paper is to assess its moral legitimacy not exclusively focusing on the autonomy proviso. The results of my investigation can be summarized as follows. Though BP is usually acknowledged for its -libertarian- character, it does not satisfy the conditions of what is considered, since Feinberg, as -soft paternalism-. Nevertheless, BP has a strong point that has been underestimated by its partisans: it withstands the equality argument. Unlike traditional forms of paternalism, BP is not demeaning and does not ostracize any category of people. Lastly, BP can be proved genuinely altruistic. This, however, demands that one abandons Sunstein and Thaler-s main assumptions.

Keywords : equality behiavorism paternalism autonomy

Author: Christophe Salvat -



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