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BE Seminar

Economics and Finance, Experimental and Behavioural Seminar

Liberal or paternalistic preferences? An experimental test


Fabrice Le Lec
Université Paris 1


« This paper studies experimentally how people value freedom of choice (liberalism) and to what extent they respect others’

preferences (pluralism). In particular, it tests paternalistic tendencies, that is the propension of individuals not to respect these two principles. In our main treatment, a patron decides which choice set a protege will face. The patron does so knowing perfectly the stated preferences of the protégé. By varying the tasks, we test whether patrons respect some simple principles such as liberalism (always giving more freedom of choice to others) or pluralism (always giving the choice sets in accordance with the protégé’s preferences), and when, and on what grounds, they transgress these principles. By comparing this experimental treatment to a treatment control where the patron select choice sets for herself, we show that on average individuals are quite respectful of others’ freedom of choice and preferences. Yet, we also observe substantial instances of paternalistic behaviors. These paternalistic actions seem rather motivated by a social ranking (what is usually considered a legitimate

consumption) than by the patron’s preferences (what the patron prefers). Moreover, libertarianism (respect for others’ freedom of choice) seem to be a more powerful principle than pluralism (respect of others’ preferences). »

Co-écrit avec Benoît Tarroux (Univ. Lyon 2, GATE)

Practical information


Université Montpellier - Faculté d'économie, salle 416
Avenue Raymond Dugrand 34960 Montpellier

Dates & time

Apr 04, 2019


Marc Willinger
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