Normative and Non-normative Concepts: Paternalism and Libertarian Paternalism

In Daniel Strech, Irene Hirschberg & Georg Marckmann (eds.), Ethics in Public Health and Health Policy. Springer. pp. 27-46 (2013)
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This chapter concerns the normativity of the concepts of paternalism and libertarian paternalism. The first concept is central in evaluating public health policy, but its meaning is controversial. The second concept is equally controversial and has received much attention recently. It may or may not shape the future evaluation of public health policy. In order to facilitate honest and fruitful debate, I consider three approaches to these concepts, in terms of their normativity. Concepts, I claim, may be considered nonnormative, normatively charged, or normative in that they involve more complex relationships between values or duties. While the last approach is often best, other approaches may be appropriate depending on the context and purpose of discussion. The chapter’s conceptual investigation is illustrated by application to two public health policies: a tax on the consumption of fat and the encouragement of health-promoting food displays in restaurants and supermarkets.

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Kalle Grill
Umeå University


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