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October 07, 2008


Bill Brinsmead

'libertarian paternalism' An oxymoron?


"Paternalism is the interference of a state or an individual with another person, against their will, and justified by a claim that the person interfered with will be better off or protected from harm."


Tory paternalism has nothing to do with libertarianism.

You are just adding the 'libertarian' part to try to mask an authoritarian aim.

Greg T

The phrase "libertarian paternalism" strikes me as a complete load of bollocks.


A load of garbage. Paternalism = patronising authoritarianism.

It shows how ashamed conservatives are of their own ideology when they have to keep adding words like 'liberal' and 'libertarian' as prefixes and suffixes to make them look better.


I quite liked it. Good balance between what government can and should not do. Ending the discrimination against marriage in tax and benefits to encourage it as it’s more stable than co-habitation, is something the government can do to encourage beneficial choices, while not forcing people into relationships, but dictating what we eat is not something government should do.

I can only assume the negative comments above arise from an “I must be allowed to do what I like (regardless of its impacts on others and on society)” mind-set. Also “paternalism” could be a word that arouses the ire of the liberal-left due to its association with fatherhood, and we know how the liberal-left hate fatherhood (and any appropriate authority)! I suppose “liberal paternalism” might be a way of describing liberty that is freedom to do what is right, with restraints for the benefit of society that are necessary due to the fallen aspects of our nature. I presume the issue is the type of restraints that can be applied. It seems that both bans with penalties to deter are appropriate for some behaviours, with incentives to beneficial behaviour choices.

Bill Palmer

Its not an original idea. It was used in the now in vogue (in policy circles) book nudge. It basically means putting choices in a context which encourages people to make a certain choice - but not reduce the opportunity to make another choice.

The Freedom Association

I plead guilty re the sound quality! I'm afraid I was a bit too far away from the action. Still, I found Tim's comments most interesting, so I'm glad they were caught for posterity.


"“I must be allowed to do what I like (regardless of its impacts on others and on society)” "

No, that is just the commonly used smear in conservative circles against libertarians even though Tories take ever opportunity to try and dress themselves in libertarian clothes.

I'm certainly disappointed in the TFA. An organisation that is welcoming paternalists into its fold brings into question its relevance with the challenges ahead.


Some interesting ideas here, Tim.

Perhaps you would like to set out your thoughts in more detail in a posting sometime.

Personally, though I believe in a small state and in making people come to terms with the consequences of their own actions, I am quite sure that, as a society, we do have a duty to provide a degree of protection for both the young and the foolish from the more damaging effects of their own recklessness. Futhermore, I don’t want staving beggars in the street so there has to be a welfare state which provides a safety net.

To me, the Libertarians come across to me as somewhat selfish well off people who lack the imagination to understand the collateral damage that can be follow in the wake of, say, the consumption of addictive drugs or philandery. However, it would be both impracticable and repressive to have laws against all forms of undesirable behaviour so, in addition to the legal code, we need (and until the last couple of generations, we had), a moral code to set some limits on personal behaviour; the moral code we had was “policed” by public opinion rather than by Mr Plod. I am not sure how we get back there.

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