Article Title

Choosing Not to Choose


Choice can be an extraordinary benefit or an immense burden. In some contexts, people choose not to choose, or would do so if they were asked. In part because of limitations of "bandwidth," and in part because of awareness of their own lack of information and potential biases, people sometimes want other people to choose for them. For example, many people prefer not to make choices about their health or retirement plans; they want to delegate those choices to a private or public institution that they trust (and may well be willing to pay a considerable amount to those who are willing to accept such delegations). This point suggests that however well accepted, the line between active choosing and paternalism is often illusory. When private or public institutions override people's desire not to choose and insist on active choosing, they may well be behaving paternalistically, through a form of choice-requiring paternalism. Active choosing can be seen as a form of libertarian paternalism, and a frequently attractive one, if people are permitted to opt out of choosing in favor of a default (and in that sense permitted not to choose); it is a form of nonlibertarian paternalism insofar as people are required to choose. For both ordinary people and private or public institutions, the ultimate judgment in favor of active choosing, or in favor of choosing not to choose, depends largely on the costs of decisions and the costs of errors.

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