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Paternalism is the state mandating certain behaviors of individuals, without their consent, because the state is acting in a parental capacity: It knows better, and it is operating on those individuals’ behalf. It is a promotion of safety, health, or welfare at the expense of liberty. Parens patriae is the state’s license or authority to engage in paternalism or to act in a parental manner. Both concepts are controversial due to the impact they have on individuals’ rights, such as the right to liberty and to privacy.

Origins of and U.S. Interpretation of Parens Patriae

Parens patriae traces back to 14th-century England. The doctrine referred to the authority of the king to appoint a financial guardian or manager for children of nobility who had become orphaned. ...

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