Between Autonomy and State Regulation: J.S. Mill's Elastic Paternalism

Raphael Cohen-Almagor
2012 Philosophy  
This paper analyses J.S. Mill's theory on the relationships between individual autonomy and State powers. It will be argued that there is a significant discrepancy between Mill's general liberal statements aimed to secure individual largest possible autonomy and the specific examples which provide the government with quite wide latitude for interference in the public and private spheres. The paper outlines the boundaries of government interference in the Millian theory. Subsequently it
more » ... Mill's elastic paternalism designed to prevent people from inflicting harm upon others as well as upon themselves, from soft paternalism on issues like compulsory education to hard paternalism on very private matters such as marriage, having children, and divorce by consent. Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work proscribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.
doi:10.1017/s0031819112000411 fatcat:b4abihyhijbapd7dwrstbgezfq