Further to my earlier post about new arguments in favor of paternalistic legislation, Prof. Sarah Conly has an op-ed in today’s NY Times concerning the subject matter of her new book, Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism. For folks interested in the arguments for and against NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to limit the size of sodas that can be sold in New York, and similar “liberty limiting” legislation, the op-ed is a great read. Money quote:
Of course, what people fear is that this is just the beginning: today it’s soda, tomorrow it’s the guy standing behind you making you eat your broccoli, floss your teeth, and watch “PBS NewsHour” every day. What this ignores is that successful paternalistic laws are done on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis: if it’s too painful, it’s not a good law. Making these analyses is something the government has the resources to do, just as now it sets automobile construction standards while considering both the need for affordability and the desire for safety. Read the rest of this entry »
What do mandatory seat belt, motorcycle helmet and “no sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 oz.” laws have in common: They are all examples of paternalistic, i.e., “government knows what’s best for you,” legislation. In a country that places a premium on individual autonomy and the notion, a la John Stuart Mill and On Liberty, that people should be allowed to do whatever they want as long as they don’t hurt someone else (Mill’s “Harm Principle”), paternalistic legislation always provokes very strong feelings.