One of the most troublesome problems concerning the appropriate extent of government interference with individuals' activity is the problem of paternalism-that is, the problem of when, if ever, the state may compel an individual to do or to refrain from some act or activity "for his own good." One would hardly know this was a troublesome problem just from looking at the literature on political and legal philosophy. It is hard to think of an influential philosophical discussion of the matter more recent than John Stuart Mill's. But paternalism is a problem which keeps coming up in discussions among philosophers as well as in discussions among people concerned with practical questions about the propriety of particular pieces of legislation, and it is a problem on which I think there is as yet no completely satisfactory view. Possibly the reason there has been so little writing on the subject of paternalism is that the simplest and most natural approach to the problem-the straightforward hedonistic utilitarian approach-leads so quickly to what is apparently a dead end. My purpose in writing this paper is to suggest two other possible justifications for paternalism, aside from pleasure-maximization, which are not, so· far as I know, part of the standard lore associated with the problem. It may be that my suggestions are part of other people's standard lore and that no one has ever seen fit to write them down. That is .a risk I shall have to take.
Publication Information & Recommended Citation
Regan, Donald H. "Justifications for Paternalism." In Nomos XV: The Limits of Law, edited by J. R. Pennock and J. W. Chapman, 189-210. New York: Lieber-Atherton, 1974.