M. Todd Henderson, "The Nanny Corporation"

We are all familiar with the Nanny State: governments telling us what we can put in our bodies, to wear seatbelts, not to talk on our cell phones while driving, and so on. But governments are not the only institutions that act paternalistically—we are seeing the rise of the Nanny Corporation. Firms big and small are imposing nanny-like restrictions on employees, in some cases even sending monitors to employee homes to check for adherence to company policies on smoking, eating, and extra-curricular activities. Should we fear or trumpet the arrival of the Nanny Corporation?

In this episode of Chicago’s Best Ideas, Professor Henderson makes the case for the Nanny Corporation, arguing that individuals in any common pool, including employees and shareholders in firms and citizens in jurisdictions, want the managers of those common pools to act paternalistically toward other individuals, because this lowers the costs of being in the pool. The government nanny and the corporate one can thus be thought of as competing in the "market for paternalism" to deliver nanny rules to individuals that demand them.

Chicago’s Best Ideas, a lecture series begun in honor of the University of Chicago Law School’s Centennial, highlights the intellectual innovations of the School’s distinguished faculty. This talk was recorded on May 5, 2009.


Participating faculty: 
M. Todd Henderson
Embedded video: