The Argument for Paternalism from Pleasant Surprise

This article argues for paternalism, but not statism, from pleasant surprise.

Basically, the argument from pleasant surprise means that neither neoclassical nor Misesian efficiency may be optimal ex post. Just as with any other kind of shock.

Here’s a short, entertaining video which touches on pleasant surprise:

So what is a poor child to do? Nothing different. The possibility of pleasant surprise does not seem to alter the optimal decision of the child.

However, it does justify paternalistic action in many cases. The way I’m thinking about paternalism might include anything from verbal assertions of judgement and fact up to coercive intervention. Perhaps there is an important distinction between the two, I’m not sure.

Without referring to the state, paternalism becomes a kind of peer-to-peer interventionism.

It’s the whole “they’ll thank me later” thing, and it’s occasionally plausible in theory and practice in my view. For example:

  1. Dad yanks kid away from running into traffic.
  2. Friend locks heroin addict in a room to break the addiction.
  3. Street preacher tells people what they should believe.
  4. A PDA in some way injures an individual according to some contract.

Leave a Comment