I stumbled when I saw.
Shakespeare, King Lear
Hegel thought that freedom was the foundational good, and that other goods - even morality - were instrumental and valuable only insofar as they promoted autonomy. For most consequentialists, this is exactly backwards: what matters is the end state more than how we get there, what is chosen more than how we choose. This is not to say that consequentialists are indifferent to the quality of the choice. Our choices are means to an end, but as Derek Parfit noted “mattering as a means is a way of mattering.” 1 The freely chosen ice cream cone tastes better than the one forced on us, even if it's the same flavor in the end.
Nevertheless, the possibility of bad choices must be troubling to the consequentialist. And to the chooser as well. Could we persuade him that, for certain kinds of decisions, he will systematically make poor choices as compared to those we would make for him, we might persuade him to give us the power to bind him in the tainted class. With the benefit of full knowledge and calm deliberation, he might willingly surrender his free bargaining rights, trading a miserable freedom for a happy slavery.
The least controversial cases for interference with individual choice are minors (children under 18) and the mentally incapable. No adult would want to be bound by all the contracts he entered into when he was a minor, nor would a person who returned to mental health want to be held accountable to the agreements he made when mentally impaired. Neither kind of contract would be likely to satisfy the Pareto standard of efficiency:
Pareto efficiency. A transformation is Pareto-superior if at least one person is made better off and no one is made worse off.
Parties of full capacity will not consent to contracts that leave them worse off; but with minors and the mentally incapable one cannot be so
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Publication information: Book title: Just Exchange: A Theory of Contracts. Contributors: F. H. Buckley - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 2005. Page number: 63.
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