Interesting, Morgan. I think you're right: this new politics of "behaviour management" is, on its face, nothing short of Orwellian. It is the brazen proclamation of lawmakers: "We Know Better." Don't believe me? Here's what Jowell told the Guardian:

"Many people ask whether there is a coherent moral and intellectual position behind our approach to these issues. I am convinced there is. Our actions are motivated by conviction and compassion. The fact that our philosophy is not well understood does not mean it does not exist."

    This is precisely why J.S. Mill, as we recently discussed, wanted a check on his father's utilitarian calculus. Maybe we'd be better off with more smoking bans. OK, I'll stop being facetious; we would be better off, at least in terms of public health. But is the overall well-being of society (whether physical, moral, or otherwise) all we need to take into account as policymakers? Mill certainly didn't think so. He argued, rather persuasively, that we need to balance our well-intentioned claims about the service public good against an assumed priority on individual freedom. I'm inclined to agree.

    But why should individual freedom matter? Right now, I'm reading F.A. Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty, in which he argues that freedom is desirable because, inter alia, it ultimately brings about the greatest good for the greatest number. When the onus of decision making rests on many, as opposed to a few, we are then able to escape what Hayek terms a "knowledge problem," which essentially refers to the idea that knowledge is disperse, and is best accessed by many people over time, through self-correcting, non-coercive processes. Some people argue that we're "too stupid to be free." In Hayek's view, they have it half right. Our knowledge is limited, but this is precisely why we should have more freedom and less control.

– –Daniel Corbett

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