They also warn that there lingers the danger of manipulation: "We do not want to banish the engineers of growth only to see them replaced by the engineers of bliss." This, however, doesn't mean that the Skidelskys dislike engineering generally. They wouldn't mind being the engineers of the good life. Just like Keynes himself in his day, they too are conceited enough to believe they have found the key to it. And therefore they have no qualms about moving people around on the chessboard of society in a patronising manner. If the intention is right, the means don't matter. Or do they?
Libertarian paternalism is a misnomer, a misleading one and a barbed one too. There is nothing libertarian about it, and it is even more dangerous than straight paternalism. Even though nobody is being physically coerced, rules and institutions are "intelligently" designed in such a way that people end up doing something others — typically government — believe to be in their best interest. Social coordination is indeed then "the result of the execution of human design", to contradict Adam Ferguson's famous dictum. Society's potential for innovation is diminished by the same degree as liberty. There is no escape from the visible hand. Haven't we had more than enough of that? The Skidelskys acknowledge that their concept entails forsaking the idea of personal autonomy and responsibility. But they couldn't care less. They believe such autonomy and responsibility to be an aberration anyway.
When George Stigler, reflecting on the "economist as preacher", reminded his colleagues that "economists have no special, professional knowledge of that which is virtuous or just," he certainly didn't expect them to team up with philosophers who would just give them carte blanche for messing around with other people's goals in life. They could do better — both of them.
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