If people have freedom of choice, do their lives go better? Under what conditions? By what criteria? Consider three distinct problems. (1) In countless situations, human beings face a serious problem of “navigability”; they do not know how to get to their preferred destination, whether the issue involves health, education, employment, or well-being in general. This problem is especially challenging for people who live under conditions of severe deprivation, but it can be significant for all of us. (2) Many of us face problems of self-control, and our decisions today endanger our own future. What we want, right now, hurts us, next year. (3) In some cases, we would actually be happy or well-off with two or more different outcomes, whether the issue involves our jobs, our diets, our city, or even our friends and partners, and the real question, on which good answers are increasingly available, is what most promotes our welfare. The evaluative problem, in such cases, is especially challenging if a decision would alter people’s identity, values, or character. Private and public institutions — including small companies, large companies, governments – can help people to have better lives, given (1), (2), and (3). This Essay, the text of the Holberg Lecture 2018, is the basis for a different, thicker, and more elaborate treatment in a book.
Sunstein, Cass R., Freedom: The Holberg Lecture, 2018 (June 2, 2018). On Freedom (Princeton University Press, 2019), Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3217325