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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 41, Issue 4, October 2015

Preference, Choice, and (Libertarian) Paternalism

Richard J. Arneson
Pages 668-691

Nudge and Shove

This essay reexamines the idea of paternalism and the basis for finding it objectionable in light of recent writings on “libertarian paternalism.” Suggestion: to qualify as paternalistic, an interference that restricts someone’s liberty or interferes with her choice-making with the aim of helping the individual must be contrary to that very individual’s will. A framework for determining the justifiability of paternalistic action is proposed, under the assumption that the individual has a personal prerogative, up to a point, to engage in less than maximally beneficial action. Beyond that point, the content of the will of the individual disposed against interference can extinguish the presumptive wrongness of paternalism.

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