Attached is a post by James Kwak. It strongly rejects a comment by Caplan and Beaulier that Behavioral Economics will Undermine the welfare state by expanding the set of choices.
Caplan and Beaulier believe that poor people are more inclined to make irrational judgments because their judgment biases are more extreme and their self-control problems more severe than those of the rest of the population. Giving them more choice will simply give them more opportunity to hurt themselves.
They argue that poor people are more likely to exhibit heavy alcohol use, to suffer from obesity, more inclined to smoke, commit crimes and use illegal drugs and to have earlier children while in their teens.
The issue, as Kwak sees it, is simple: is the so-called bad judgment of the poor “causing” obesity, crime, drug-taking etc. or is it the result of poor education, the high cost of eating healthy food, limited care options, worse health care options etc.? In other words, are poor education and health the product of inequality and won’t a reduction in inequality (e.g. via social security) improve poor people’s welfare? (This is apart from the fact that things like unemployment insurance and EITC increase the incentive to work).
It is a well argued piece but perhaps taken a little too far. For example, are education levels entirely a product of poverty or are they more gender-based?