Essay On Paternalism

899 Words4 Pages
The consumption of alcohol has a direct and often-negative impact on the lives of so many that to regulate it, while infringing on certain freedoms, is morally justified.
When we consider the realm of mind-altering substances, we typically think of illicit drugs ingested by those of questionable moral integrity. Alcohol, however, legally consumed by up to seventy percent of the population, represents the number one drug problem in the US today.6
Despite government regulations and guidelines the destructive impact of alcohol abuse affects many. Unrestricted, the consequences of alcohol consumption would likely be exponentially worse than they are today.
The practice of “pure” paternalism involves interfering with people’s autonomy solely for their own good e.g. prohibiting the sale of alcohol. “Impure” paternalism is interfering with a person’s autonomy partly to benefit others e.g. DUI laws. Some philosophers contend that paternalism can never be justified and that the moral imperative will guide people, and ultimately societies, to goodness. In this essay I will argue that paternalistic intervention to moderate alcohol consumption is morally acceptable.
Unlike other drugs, with alcohol we have an opportunity to contrast levels of intervention as they impact various groups, illicit use by those under the age of consent; legitimate, but regulated, use in those over twenty-one; and usage as it is affected by softer “guidelines” such as those that encourage pregnant women to abstain from alcohol consumption.
While there is nothing immoral or wrong with enjoying alcohol in moderation, heavy drinking is long associated with physical health problems including heart related disorders, liver disease, several types of cancer, impaired moto...

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...nforce consumption levels, with few exceptions, would be hard to police. Government campaigns to make cigarette smoking antisocial have been successful in substantially reducing tobacco consumption.
Perhaps we could draw on these lessons to raise awareness of the harms of alcohol. If mindsets around the current social acceptance of alcohol changed, there may be a time in the future when legislation is not required to mitigate the its harms.
We simply cannot ignore the human suffering caused by alcohol, particularly suffering inflicted on non-drinkers. To uphold the right of the victims of alcohol abusers not to be hurt, we must allow paternalistic intervention at a minimum at the level we currently have, but ideally with an increased focus those not already regulated by legislation that covers minors and drivers.
Standing by while innocent people are hurt is immoral.
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