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Introducing Political PhilosophyA Policy-Driven Approach

Introducing Political Philosophy: A Policy-Driven Approach (1st edn)

Andrew Walton, William Abel, Elizabeth Kahn, and Tom Parr
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date: 08 August 2022

p. 454. Recreational Drugs and Paternalismlocked

p. 454. Recreational Drugs and Paternalismlocked

  • William Abel,
  • Elizabeth Kahn,
  • Tom Parr
  •  and Andrew Walton

Abstract

This chapter explores whether it is justifiable for a state to discourage an individual from using recreational drugs. It focuses on paternalist arguments—that is, arguments that appeal to the idea that a state may intervene in an individual’s life for their own good. The chapter argues against the justifiability of these policies, except in some extreme cases. It offers three arguments for the anti-paternalist claim that a state may not intervene in an individual’s life for their own good. These are that there is value in an individual acting autonomously; that it is disrespectful to intervene in an individual’s life for their own good; and that an individual is a better judge of their interests than the state. The chapter also examines whether it is justifiable for a state to intervene in an individual’s life for their own good when that individual is misinformed about the options. In the case of recreational drugs, the appropriate response to misinformation is to educate an individual about the effects of drugs, rather than to discourage their use. Finally, the chapter outlines some implications of this argument for the design of drug policy.

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