Paternalism and liberalism seem to be two very interlinked concepts in modern societies. It is true for both economical matters and social matters. For example, our Western 'liberal democracies' governments can provide huge amounts of money during the crisis to refund the banks– specifically, it is called interventionism- and they can also forbid prostitution and drugs. Thus in practice, liberalism and paternalism seem to co-exist. But in theory, the co-existence and compatibility of paternalism with liberalism is quite paradoxical.
John Rawls defined paternalism as the doctrine which justifies that it is morally legitimate for the State to act for people's well-being instead of themselves. This means that the State can legally and legitimately infringe on people's freedom; all liberalism thinkers– even if they all have different theories about liberalism, for instance Nozick and Kant- tried to demonstrate that this is not the best way to maximise people's well-being. Liberalism is the doctrine which places human liberty as the highest principle and value: people's freedom should be the only criterion and only justification of the actions of the State.
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