Three Cheers for the Nanny State by Sarah Conly

[Categories: POLITICS, Conservative Thought.]

From the pages of the New York Times today:


Three Cheers for the Nanny State


Give me a 32-ounce soda or give me death! Seriously?

Or, copy and paste this URL into your browser:

[Someone please advise if the links do not work.  The NYT is often a controlled substance.]

Even the best fiction writers could not make this stuff up.  In the spirit of my post

Gun control, Elisabeth Rosenthal, and the New York Times

Ms. Conly gets my SHAME AWARD for this month.


The subject title explains the entire article.  Here are a few excerpts:


“Obviously, it’s not about soda. It’s because such a ban suggests that sometimes we need to be stopped from doing foolish stuff, and this has become, in contemporary American politics, highly controversial, no matter how trivial the particular issue.”

“We have a vision of ourselves as free, rational beings who are totally capable of making all the decisions we need to in order to create a good life.”  [DEFINITELY FREE.  Maybe not always rational, but that’s called being human. -JH]

“The crucial point is that in some situations it’s just difficult for us to take in the relevant information and choose accordingly.”

“In the old days we used to blame people for acting imprudently, and say that since their bad choices were their own fault, they deserved to suffer the consequences. Now we see that these errors aren’t a function of bad character, but of our shared cognitive inheritance. The proper reaction is not blame, but an impulse to help one another.

That’s what the government is supposed to do, help us get where we want to go. It’s not always worth it to intervene, but sometimes, where the costs are small and the benefit is large, it is. That’s why we have prescriptions for medicine. And that’s why, as irritating as it may initially feel, the soda regulation is a good idea. It’s hard to give up the idea of ourselves as completely rational. We feel as if we lose some dignity. But that’s the way it is, and there’s no dignity in clinging to an illusion.”

Sarah Conly, an assistant professor of philosophy at Bowdoin College, is the author of “Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism.”


If the article doesn’t explain it her authorship of ‘Justifying Coercive Paternalism’ does.  Her bio, linked at her name above, is equally enlightening:

“I was on leave during the academic year 2010-2011, spending the fall at the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, the spring in Oaxaca, Mexico.  During that time I wrote a book, Against Autonomy:  Justifying Coercive Paternalism, which will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2012.  Against Autonomy is a defense of paternalistic laws; that is, laws that make you do things, or prevent you from doing things, for your own good.  I argue that autonomy, or the freedom to act in accordance with your own decisions, is overrated—that the common high evaluation of the importance of autonomy is based on a belief that we are much more rational than we actually are. ”

[It seems that not only are we not always rational, but we are incapable of becoming so. -JH]

“Current Projects

I’ve now started on my next book, tentatively titled One: Do We have a Right to More Children? 

In One, I argue that opposition to population regulation is based on a number of mistakes:  that the right to have a family doesn’t entail the right to have as many children as you may want; that the right to control one’s body is conditional on how much harm you are doing to others; and that nothing in population regulation entails that those who break the law can be forced to have abortions, or subject to any sort of punishment that is horrific.  If population growth is sufficiently dangerous, it is fair for us to impose restrictions on how many children we can give birth to.”

This is what we are up against.  Need I say more?

Sarah Conly…


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