The New York University School of Law’s Journal of Law and Liberty will host a symposium exploring the newest scholarship in legal paternalism and behavioral economic theory. The symposium, “Behavioral Law & Economics’ Challenge to the Classical Liberal Program” will take place on Friday, Oct. 13 from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm.

Classical liberalism posits that we are best off when we are given the maximum possible range of choices. Studies in behavioral economics have identified predictable flaws in human reasoning-such as our tendency to attach too much significance to recent events and to underestimate the probability of injury-which in turn have given legal paternalists new justifications for restricting our set of choices in the name of our own best interests.

Disagreement over the proper application of the insights of behavioral law & economics has been attracting the attention of both legislators and the media. The debate between classical liberalism and behavioral economics underlies policy choices as diverse as motorcycle helmet laws, prohibitions against gambling, forced retirement savings plans, sentencing guidelines, and the inadmissibility of certain types of evidence at trial.

Panel 1: 9:30 am - 11:00 am Rehabilitating Rational Choice: The Real-World Robustness of Flaws in Perfect Rationality will explore empirically based decisions on policy decisions. The panelists will include:

  • Claire Hill, Professor of Law, University of Minnesota
  • Mario Rizzo, Associate Professor of Economics, NYU
  • Douglas Glen Whitman, Professor of Economics, California State University, Northridge

Panel 2: 11:00 am - 12:30 pm “Libertarian Paternalism” and Consumer Contracts will explore whether flaws in perfect rationality can justify limiting the sorts of bargains that corporate actors may solicit, consumers may enter into, and courts may enforce. The panelists will include:

  • Edward Janger, Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School
  • Susan Block-Lieb, Professor of Law, Fordham Law School
  • J.D. Trout, Professor of Philosophy, Loyola University Chicago
  • Joshua Wright, Assistant Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law

Panel 3: 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm Debiasing Strategies and Trial Procedures will explore whether and how sentencing law and criminal procedure may be altered in response to persistent and predictable cognitive biases. The panelists will include:

  • Alafair S. Burke, Associate Professor of Law, Hofstra University School of Law
  • Uzi Segal, Professor of Economics, Boston College
  • Alex Stein, Visiting Professor of Law, Yale Law School; Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University

This conference will be held at NYU’s Vanderbilt Hall, 40 Washington Square South, between MacDougal and Sullivan Streets, one block east of the West Fourth Subway Station. [Subway Lines: A, B, C, D, E, F, V (West 4th Street); N, R, W (8th Street); 6 (Astor Place)]

Reporters interested in attending this conference should contact Elizabeth Fasolino at 212.998.6849 or

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