Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist
Escaping Paternalism

Escaping Paternalism
Rationality, Behavioral Economics, and Public Policy

$120.00 (P)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Economics, Choice, and Society

  • Publication planned for: December 2019
  • availability: Not yet published - available from December 2019
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107016941

$ 120.00 (P)

Pre-order Add to wishlist

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • The burgeoning field of behavioral economics has produced a new set of justifications for paternalism. This book challenges behavioral paternalism on multiple levels, from the abstract and conceptual to the pragmatic and applied. Behavioral paternalism relies on a needlessly restrictive definition of rational behavior. It neglects nonstandard preferences, experimentation, and self-discovery. It relies on behavioral research that is often incomplete and unreliable. It demands a level of knowledge from policymakers that they cannot reasonably obtain. It assumes a political process largely immune to the effects of ignorance, irrationality, and the influence of special interests and moralists. Overall, behavioral paternalism underestimates the capacity of people to solve their own problems, while overestimating the ability of experts and policymakers to design beneficial interventions. The authors argue instead for a more inclusive theory of rationality in economic policymaking.

    • Offers a thorough analysis of the normative basis of standard economic rationality
    • Provides a reassessment of the empirical evidence of cognitive biases
    • Evaluates the policy proposals of behavioral economics
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Taking issue with the narrow norms of rationality in much of behavioral economics, this remarkable book argues in favor of an inclusive concept of rationality and is one of the first to cover the full range of relevant empirical evidence from psychology. Escaping Paternalism promotes a serious attempt to understand why people do what they do.' Gerd Gigerenzer, Director of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy, Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung, Berlin

    'Mario J. Rizzo and Glen Whitman have written an incisive yet accessible critique of the dominant strain of behavioral economics associated with Daniel Kahneman, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. Rizzo and Whitman are wise enough to know that human beings, with quirks and practices, are ‘people, not puppets’. Yet they show how classical liberal principles of governance do far better in organizing social arrangements than the various forms of soft paternalism now in vogue with so many behavioral economists.' Richard Epstein, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University

    'Mario J. Rizzo and Glen Whitman present a powerful and well-documented critique of behavioural economists’ justifications of paternalism. They argue convincingly that these justifications illegitimately presuppose that rational-choice theory is a normative standard. Inspired by the psychology of Gerd Gigerenzer, they offer a more pragmatic and ‘ecological’ understanding of human rationality.' Robert Sugden, University of East Anglia

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Publication planned for: December 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107016941
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 mm
    • contains: 3 b/w illus.
    • availability: Not yet published - available from December 2019
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: the rise of behavioral paternalism
    2. What is rationality?
    3. Rationality for puppets
    4. Preference biases
    5. The rationality of beliefs
    6. Deficient foundations for behavioral policymaking
    7. Knowledge problems in paternalist policymaking
    8. The political economy of paternalist policymaking
    9. Slippery slopes in paternalist policymaking
    10. Common threads, escape routes, and paths forward

  • Authors

    Mario J. Rizzo, New York University
    Mario J. Rizzo is a professor of Economics, Director of the Foundations of the Market Economy Program, and Co-Director of the Classical Liberal Institute at New York University. He is the co-author of Austrian Economics Re-Examined: The Economics of Time and Ignorance (2014). He has published in such journals as Journal of Legal Studies, the Columbia Law Review and the UCLA Law Review.

    Glen Whitman, California State University, Northridge
    Glen Whitman is a professor of Economics at California State University, Northridge. He is the co-editor of Economics of the Undead: Zombies, Vampires, and the Dismal Science (2014). He has published in such journals as the UCLA Law Review, the Journal of Legal Studies, and the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.