In seminal journal articles... you’ll find a panoply of policy proposals from mild to downright intrusive. The story begins with the seemingly innocuous proposal to enroll all employees in savings plans automatically (with the ability to opt out). Then it progresses to new default rules in contracts, such as a presumption of “for cause” rather than “at will” employment, again with an opt-out. And then? Default rules that can be waived only through a cumbersome legal procedure. Then default rules with some options ruled out entirely — such as maximum hours that cannot be waived for less than time-and-a-half pay. Then cooling-off periods for high-cost purchases. Then sin taxes for fatty or sodium-rich foods. Then outright bans on ingredients like trans fats.
Not every new paternalist supports every one of these policies, and they don’t advocate them all with the same confidence. But they’re all on the list, and all justified by an appeal to behavioral economics.
Obamacare is just the beginning. But it does provide supporters with moral superiority.