Making People Be Healthy
Wilkinson, Timothy Martin
Journal of primary health care 2009 Sep; 1(3): 244-6
How are we supposed to decide the rights and wrongs of banning smoking in bars, restricting adverts for junk food, nagging people into being screened for cancers, or banning the sale of party pills? The aim of this paper is to think through the political ethics of trying to make people healthier through influencing or restricting their choices. This paper covers: (1) Paternalism. What it is, what it assumes. (2) The place of health in well-being, and how this makes paternalism problematic. (3) The mistakes people make in acting in their own interests, and the implications for pro-health paternalism. (4) Autonomy objections to paternalism. The paper (5) finishes on a note of hope, by commending the currently fashionable libertarian paternalism: trying to have one's carrot cake and eat it too. A persistent theme is that thinking sensibly about making people healthier needs subtlety, not broad, ringing declarations.
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