Paternalism and Patriarchy

My new TCS article is up. It is a response to this piece by Douglas Kern about abusive domestic relationships and the (alleged) failure of libertarianism to properly address them. Virginia Postrel's brief criticism inspired me to to respond in full.

Here's the money quote:

In order to preserve a culture of liberty, Kern argues, we must be willing to protect people from themselves. An odd statement about liberty, when we consider that Kern's "enlightened paternalism" has been used to justify everything from the War on Drugs ("I know what you should put into your body better than you do") to Social Security ("I know how much you should save for your retirement better than you do") to the repeal of Bush's tax cuts ("I know how to spend your money better than you do"). Indeed, it is difficult to think of a government program that isn't ultimately justified by an enlightened sense of paternalism. If this is what is necessary to preserve a culture of liberty, the mind reels at what would be necessary to preserve a culture of tyranny.

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i understand andy. but as

i understand andy. but as long as the state is in existence, and "owns" these roads, etc. do you not agree that some of these regulations are necessary? i mean certainly people in some of these government organizations understand safety, and since they are funded by theft, they are guaranteed to be around when they're needed :)

also, a business can't have asbestos and put up a sign saying so, and then have that be legal and avoid a lawsuit. certainly that's not ok?

so in other words, how do you get from here to there? how do you remove these safety regulations, and turn them over to private hands without a lot of safety problems inbetween? maybe i'm just an idiot for thinking the government does a few good things, but that's how i feel. and i don't think the private sector would provide them all, since some probably aren't profitable. and even if they do have private regulations, they can't be forced obviously. even if you have clear evidence that cars all need these certain brakes or whatever, do we just wait until people die and go from there? i just don't understand.

as long as the law is public, what regulations are ok? where do you draw the line?

thanks for your reply

scott: The problem is not


The problem is not that there are standards which must be met to operate a vehicle on the roads. The owner of the roads has as much right to exclude your brakeless, unlit jalopy as does the owner of the local racetrack. The problem is that the "owner" of the roads acquires the land and funds to build them through theft.

good article. one of the

good article. one of the issues i have though is what if government protection is more meant for others you interact with instead of yourself? for example, requiring child safety seats, or disc brakes on cars, or prohibition of a workplace from being filled with asbestos, or limits on vehicle pollution. are you really against every single regulation? certainly many of these save lives, so what's the problem? it just seems a bit pedantic. i hope you understand what i'm saying, or else i can clarify.

Scott, I responded via a


I responded via a blog entry:

Paternalism and regulation

Can the editors turn that into a link?

Andy, Send a trackback from


Send a trackback from pMachine to this post. I know this is possible because I've seen JTK do it. That will automatically add a link to the bottom of this post.

thanks andy, i'll check it

thanks andy, i'll check it out