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Liberalism without Perfection$
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Jonathan Quong

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199594870

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199594870.001.0001

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Paternalism and Perfectionism

Paternalism and Perfectionism

(p.73) 3 Paternalism and Perfectionism
Liberalism without Perfection

Jonathan Quong

Oxford University Press

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

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