Submission to the Senate Inquiry into Personal Choice and Community Impact
Australia has a long history of paternalism. We invented the word ‘wowser' to describe everything from early closing to restrictions on mixed-sex bathing. Historically, paternalism has been justified on mixture of moral, religious and social grounds. Today those arguments are now framed under the banner of public health.
It is the view of the Institute of Public Affairs that individuals should be free to live their lives according to their values and their preferences. The only activities that can be legitimately constrained are those which have a direct, material impact on the rights of others.
This is the perspective which we apply to paternalist public policy, also known colloquially as ‘Nanny State' public policy. These policies consist of regulatory and taxation interventions aimed at restricting or influencing individual choices that affect primarily those individuals themselves. Formally, paternalism refers to regulatory interventions where ‘X acts to diminish Y's freedom, to the end that Y's good may be secured'.