Mill's Principles And Legal Paternalism

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Both the harm principle and legal paternalism are aimed at upholding an individual’s liberties within the law. However, they argue different view points and restrictions. The harm principle is chiefly concerned with upholding an individual’s right to somehow harm oneself, while legal paternalism says the law can interfere to prevent an individual from harming oneself. This is the most obvious distinction between the two philosophies. Dworkin’s argument for legal paternalism, however, uses Mill’s argument against him, and ultimately proves to be the stronger principle to justify law. I believe legal paternalism is the only principle that may justify laws, and it will be explained why by showing how Mill’s own views allow for legal paternalism, how Dworkin perseveres freedom through interference, and how there are functions in place to minimize paternalistic interference.
However, we must begin by defining what these two philosophies are. First, the harm principle will be explained. Mill himself writes it as being, “… the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others” (Mill, 17). Mill is arguing that a person cannot be obstructed by any other person, government, or institution when his actions only harm himself.

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