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Article

Volume 29 • Number 3

July 2015



 

 

Paternalism, Autonomy, and Food Regulation


by Maura Priest


In 2012, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed legislation that would ban the sale of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. The growth of the obesity epidemic suggests that proposals for similar measures will increase in coming years. As public health officials' focus shifts, campaigns against smoking are being replaced with campaigns against sugar, fat, and carbs. Governments may be quick to propose regulations that incapacitate our ability to make bad health choices. Prima facie, it may seem that any inquiry into the justificatory grounding of Bloomberg's proposal or other "food bans" would be nothing more than re-engagement with familiar issues regarding paternalism, coercion, liberty, and respect for persons. Governments have a long history of approving legal mandates concerning smoking, narcotics, seat belts, vaccinations, and more. Philosophical discussions on the aforementioned have a prolific literature, and Bloomberg's ban might seem like just an addition to the list. If so, we should simply re-engage old arguments and apply them to the matter at hand. But this would be a mistake.


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ISSN: 2152-0542