Paternalism is commonly understood as an infringement on the personal freedom and autonomy of a person (or class of persons) with a beneficent or protective intent, although this definition is somewhat contested in the ways discussed below. As the ensuing discussion suggests, paternalism generally involves competing claims between individual liberty and authoritative social control. Questions concerning paternalism may include as well both the claims of individual rights and social protections and the legal and socially legitimated means of satisfying those claims. The discursive use of the term paternalism is almost exclusively negative, employed to diminish specific policies or practices by presenting them in opposition to individual freedom.

History of Paternalism

The term paternalism first appeared in the late 19th century as an implied critique predicated on the ...

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