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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 45, Issue 2, April 2019

Viki Møller Lyngby Pedersen
Pages 287-305

Harm to Self or Others
On Central Non-Paternalistic Arguments

Opponents of paternalism have sought to formulate non-paternalistic arguments for some seemingly reasonable but apparently paternalistic policies. This article addresses two such non-paternalistic arguments—the public charge argument and the psychic harm argument. The gist of both arguments is that a person’s imprudent or risky behavior often affects the interests of others adversely, and that this justifies restricting his or her behavior in various ways. The article shows that both arguments face important problems. It thus throws serious doubt on the prospect of holding on to apparently sound and well-founded policies whilst at the same time avoiding paternalism.

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