Economics and Philosophy

Review Article

New on Paternalism and Public Policy

Thomas C. Leonard a1, Robert S. Goldfarb a2 and Steven M. Suranovic a2
a1 Princeton University
a2 George Washington University


Bill New's (1999) thoughtful paper has performed the valuable service of clarifying the meaning and the policy implications of paternalism. His careful formulation delimits the domain of justified state paternalism. Having argued successfully, in our view, for a narrow ambit, New proceeds to identify situations that justify paternalism. This comment is written in the spirit of a friendly reformulation that refines and improves the specification of when paternalism is justified. Our argument is two-fold. First, we argue that New's formulation, properly understood, will not readily permit the paternalistic interventions he argues are justified. Second, we identify a class of potentially justified interventions that have paternalistic aspects, but which are neither strictly paternalistic nor market-failure remedies.