Paternalism and Perfectionism

Jonathan Quong

in Liberalism without Perfection

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780199594870
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191723513 | DOI:
Paternalism and Perfectionism

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This chapter argues that liberal perfectionism is almost entirely unable to escape the charge of paternalism. This is true because liberal perfectionism has no satisfactory answer to a simple but important question: why is state action necessary at all to achieve perfectionist objectives? Even non-coercive action, the author argues, can be paternalistic when motivated by a negative judgement about the ability of others to run their own lives. The author claims that it is this negative judgement regarding others that captures the distinctive nature of paternalism. In its efforts to be less coercive, liberal perfectionism has therefore failed to address the problem of paternalism that besets perfectionism. Furthermore, the author argues that paternalism is presumptively wrong because of the way it denies someone's moral status as a free and equal citizen. This means perfectionism, even when pursued by non-coercive means, is presumptively wrong.

Keywords: autonomy; liberal perfectionism; moral status; paternalism; public goods; Rawls; Raz; subsidies

Chapter.  18707 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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