Best triplet sentence I read yesterday

Many of you say paternalism is to protect the very stupid.  Would you support Would-Have-Banned stores with an min IQ rule?  If so, what would that IQ be?

That’s Robin Hanson, advocating stores devoted to selling banned products.


On balance I would in fact support Would-Have-Banned stores, but I should point out that I did not actually advocate them in that post. :)

Answers: Yes. Zero.

This line of reasoning is like a satire of libertarianism. It might seem credible because the U.S. is overregulated now, but just because reducing paternalism would be marginally beneficial doesn't mean we should go all the way.

For a good example of why it's more complicated than just giving consumers "would-have-banned" info, consider the case of black market antibiotics in poor countries, where people buy partial doses, take them without doctor's supervision and end up creating drug-resistant bacteria. The black market is a good example of a would've-banned shop, as it's explicitly illegal but the laws are known to be nonenforced.

Part of the story here is an externality, and this is something that arises in other regulatory situations too: e.g. when a building falls down then third parties can be killed and it can be hard to fully compensate them for this.

But another important part is that people don't make decisions by individually optimizing their utility functions, not even if they're "high IQ." For example, I fly coach because that's what my employer will pay for. Similarly, I go to licensed doctors because my insurance will cover that. If previously unlicensed doctors became legal, then their quality would improve somewhat and maybe then insurance plans would only pay for visits to Would-Have-Banned doctors, with the price of fully licensed doctors rising as they become the equivalent of flying first class. And even if I would've paid the difference before, now the new deluxe fully-licensed doctors cost too much for me.

And when someone gets sick in a poor country, and has to scrounge money for treatment for relatives, it can be hard to justify paying many times more and travelling much farther to the clinic for a full course of antibiotics.

The point is that our choices (a) are often tiered, rather than continuous, and (b) are socially constrained and collective, rather than individually decided.

"That is an easy one: my IQ minus one.


Jeff, I'm the opposite: my IQ plus one.

You smart guys need protecting from yourselves.

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