Mill on Paternalism

I have a "nutshell" summary and critique of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty now up at Excerpt: Mill thus defends freedom of conscience, speech, and lifestyle on completely “practical” grounds, but he leaves some significant loose ends in On Liberty. For instance, there are lots of examples of “harms” that the government shouldn’t regulate, … Continue reading Mill on Paternalism

Best Amazon Review Ever?

On Sarah Conly's book, Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism (must quote the whole thing): Human beings are irrational. As Sarah Conly writes, "The truth is that we don't reason very well, and in many cases there is no justification for leaving us to struggle with our own inabilities and to suffer the consequences" (pg. 1). … Continue reading Best Amazon Review Ever?

The Myth of the War of the Worlds Panic

BBC News Magazine: Mass panic and hysteria swept the United States on the eve of Halloween in 1938, when an all-too-realistic radio dramatisation of The War of the Worlds sent untold thousands of people into the streets or heading for the hills. The radio show was so terrifying in its accounts of invading Martians wielding … Continue reading The Myth of the War of the Worlds Panic

Less Economic Freedom, Less Personal Freedom

This proposal in the UK to tax "fatties" highlights once again how once government gets deeply involved in funding health care, the pressures to control people's lifestyles become significant. This is the same argument we hear from supporters of sky-high cigarette taxes, smoking bans, seat-belt and helmet laws, ad nauseam. "We all pay for it." … Continue reading Less Economic Freedom, Less Personal Freedom

How Do Conservative Paternalists Define Freedom?

Having taken on left-liberals in my last post, it's only fair to take a shot at the right too. Here's the Deseret News editorializing on why our recommendations for Utah are wrong: The report's authors are clear about their definition of freedom. "In our view, individuals should be allowed to dispose of their lives, liberties, … Continue reading How Do Conservative Paternalists Define Freedom?

Frightening Sentences of the Day

From Peter Ubel in Free Market Madness: Why Human Nature Is at Odds with Economics---And Why It Matters (Harvard Business Press, 2009): The government could, theoretically, change the finances of the food industry enough to halt the obesity epidemic. [...] Given that information alone may not suffice to encourage better eating habits, policy makers should … Continue reading Frightening Sentences of the Day


The City of Boston and Carney Hospital in Dorchester, Massachusetts are banning the sale of sugar-sweetened drinks at their facilities and events.  This includes the much-loved Gatorade.   Mayor Thomas "Mumbles" Menino justified the ban by arguing: "I want to make this a healthier choice, the easier choice in people’s daily lives, whether it’s the schools, the … Continue reading Shove

Thank God for the South

There is a lot of talk these days about the need for enlightened and educated people to help guide---nudgeif you will---people's choices. Academics especially have a penchant for believing it their right, perhaps even their humanitarian duty, to protect others from their own bad decisions. Albert Jay Nock called this a "monstrous itch" to run … Continue reading Thank God for the South

What Do Parents Owe Their Children?

Most of us rightly think that children are unlike adults in two ways. First, children have a right to positive provision that adults may not enjoy. Second, parents (and perhaps the state) enjoy the right and indeed obligation to treat their children paternalistically in order to guide their development to full rationality. So how do we justify a moral distinction between children and adults?