This article defends the principle of giving a fresh start to individuals who come to consider that they have mismanaged their share of resources at an earlier stage of their life. The first part challenges the ethical intuition that it would be unfair to tax the steadfast frugal in order to help the regretful spendthrift and argues that the possibility of changing one’s mind is an important freedom. The second part examines the disincentives induced by fresh-start policies. It shows that even when individuals can strategically misrepresent their preferences, there remains a significant difference between unforgiving and forgiving policies. It shows that the optimal policy does not only redistribute funds, but also puts protective constraints on early individual decisions (for example, compulsory saving through social security taxes).
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- Economics and Econometrics
- fresh start
- preference changes