Drug Policy, Paternalism and the Limits of Government Intervention

International Journal of Political Theory 4 (1):54-73 (2020)
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Gerald Dworkin provides an insightful starting point for determining acceptable paternalism through his commitment to protecting our future autonomy and health from lasting damage. Dworkin grounds his argument in an appeal to inherent goods, which this paper argues is best considered as a commitment to human flourishing. However, socialconnectedness is also fundamental to human flourishing and an important consideration when determining the just limits of paternalistic drug controls, a point missing from Dworkin’ essay. For British philosopher Thomas Hill Green, regulation of alcohol sales emerged from the social ideal. Green argued that policy interventions, including restricted opening hours and locations, improved the conditions for humans to flourish. Green offers a compelling political vision but fails to account for the fact pleasure is also an inherent good. He focused excessively on our social nature, excluding our more pleasure-seeking and egoistic characteristics. In contrast, a more realistic and complete vision of human flourishing can be found in an amended version of Gerald’s Dworkin’s arguments. In conclusion, this paper argues drug policy makers should remain committed to the harm principle as applied to criminal law whereby a person should never be criminalized for self-harm. Such a limit on paternalistic interventions is deemed necessary when eudaimonia is the end of government action. In practical terms, this means that the criminalization of drug use, as opposed to drug production, is always unjust.



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Paternalism.Gerald Dworkin - 1972 - The Monist 56 (1):64-84.
Perfectionist Liberalism and Political Liberalism.Martha C. Nussbaum - 2011 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 39 (1):3-45.
Paternalism.Gerald Dworkin - 1972 - The Monist.
Personal Autonomy and Society.Marina A. L. Oshana - 1998 - Journal of Social Philosophy 29 (1):81-102.

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