There are two standard policy alternatives for combatting the harmful behaviors that commercialism encourages: ineffective “soft” paternalistic requirements mandating that consumers receive “helpful” information, such as calorie counts; and “hard” paternalistic rules that curtail individual choice, such as restrictions on sugary soft-drinks and other unhealthy options. Perhaps the best approach for dealing with the clash between short-term pleasures and long-term interests is to take a libertarian path between hard and soft paternalism, one that encourages good behavior while allowing individual choice.

Dan Ariely is James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and the founder of the Center for Advanced Hindsight.
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