Government Paternalism

Nanny State or Helpful Friend?

 

Should governments save people from themselves? Do governments have the right to influence citizens' behavior related to smoking tobacco, eating too much, not saving enough, drinking alcohol, or taking marijuana--or does this create a nanny state, leading to infantilization, demotivation, and breaches in individual autonomy? Looking at examples from both sides of the Atlantic and around the world, Government Paternalism examines the justifications for, and the prevalence of, government involvement and considers when intervention might or might not be acceptable. Building on developments in philosophy, behavioral economics, and psychology, Julian Le Grand and Bill New explore the roles, boundaries, and responsibilities of the government and its citizens.

 

Le Grand and New investigate specific policy areas, including smoking, saving for pensions, and assisted suicide. They discuss legal restrictions on risky behavior, taxation of harmful activities, and subsidies for beneficial activities. And they pay particular attention to "nudge" or libertarian paternalist proposals that try to change the context in which individuals make decisions so that they make the right ones. Le Grand and New argue that individuals often display "reasoning failure": an inability to achieve the ends that they set themselves. Such instances are ideal for paternalistic interventions--for though such interventions might impinge on autonomy, the impact can be outweighed by an improvement in well-being. Government Paternalism rigorously considers whether the state should guide citizen decision making in positive ways and if so, how this should be achieved.

The Other Invisible Hand

Delivering Public Services through Choice and Competition

How can we ensure high-quality public services such as health care and education? Governments spend huge amounts of public money on public services such as health, education, and social care, and yet the services that are actually delivered are often low quality, inefficiently run, unresponsive to their users, and inequitable in their distribution. In this book, Julian Le Grand argues that the best solution is to offer choice to users and to encourage competition among providers. Le Grand has just completed a period as policy advisor working within the British government at the highest levels, and from this he has gained evidence to support his earlier theoretical work and has experienced the political reality of putting public policy theory into practice. He examines four ways of delivering public services: trust; targets and performance management; "voice"; and choice and competition. He argues that, although all of these have their merits, in most situations policies that rely on extending choice and competition among providers have the most potential for delivering high-quality, efficient, responsive, and equitable services. But it is important that the relevant policies be appropriately designed, and this book provides a detailed discussion of the principal features that these policies should have in the context of health care and education. It concludes with a discussion of the politics of choice.

The Economics of Social Problems

 

The fourth edition of this classic text has been substantially revised to reflect changing social problems as well as recent policy developments. It adopts a common approach to each social problem, asking what are the government's efficiency and equity objectives and looking at the extent to which they can be achieved through market-based or government interventions. The use of a simple yet rigorous economic framework makes this an essential introductory textbook for those with little experience of economics who are interested in how economic tools can be used to understand and shape public policy. 

The fourth edition features:

  • new chapters on climate change and pensions

  • a chapter on crime, featuring recent advances in measuring the costs of crime to society

  • substantial updating throughout

  • more international examples

Motivation, Agency and Public Policy

Of Knights and Knaves, Pawns and Queens

Can we rely on the altruism of professionals or the public service ethos to deliver good quality health and education services? And how should patients, parents, and pupils behave - as grateful recipients or active consumers? 

 

This book provides new answers to these questions - a milestone in the analysis and development of public policy, from one of the leading thinkers in the field. It provides a new perspective on policy design, emphasising the importance of analysing the motivation of professionals and others who work within the public sector, and both their and public service beneficiaries' capacity for agency or independent action. It argues that the conventional assumption that public sector professionals are public-spirited altruists or 'knights' is misplaced; but so is the alternative that they are all, in David Hume's terminology, 'knaves' or self-interested egoists. We also must not assume that individual citizens are passive recipients of public services (pawns); but nor can they be untrammelled sovereigns with unrestricted choices over services and resources (queens). Instead, policies must be designed so as to give the proper balance of motivation and agency. 

Equity and Choice

An essay in economics and applied philosophy

Offering a new answer to an age-old problem: the meaning of a just or equitable distribution of resources, Julian Le Grand examines the principal interpretations of equity used by economists and political philosophers. He argues that none captures the essence of the term as well as an alternative conception relating equity to the existence or otherwise of individual choice.

 

Le Grand shows that this conception is not only philosophically well-grounded but is also directly relevant to key areas of distributional policy. His theoretical argument is complemented by detailed discussion of the application of the central idea to specific areas of policy, including the distribution of health and health care, central government grants to local governments and the measurement of income for tax purposes.

Equity and Choice is written by an economist, but is intended for political philosophers and social policy analysts as well as economists. Hence the key chapters are written in a non-technical fashion, with specialized material relegated to appendices. This book is a unique combination of philosophical, economic and policy analysis and represents a major contribution in all three areas.