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Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism Hardcover – December 17, 2012
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Frederick Schauer, David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Virginia
"Sarah Conly has written the best book about paternalism since Mill, and the best philosophical defense of paternalism we have to date. Tough-minded, resourceful, precise, and informed by knowledge of both psychology and the regulatory state, the book issues a challenge to which, from now on, anyone who objects to paternalistic government policies will have to respond. A marvelous achievement."
Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago
"According to Mill, 'Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.' Sarah Conly disagrees. In this lively, accessible, sensible, and well argued book, Conly makes a case for coercive paternalism that critics of the 'nanny state' will have to take seriously."
Alan Wertheimer, Professor Emeritus, University of Vermont
"... careful, provocative, and novel, and it is a fundamental challenge to Mill and the many people who follow him ..."
Cass R. Sunstein, The New York Review of Books
"... Sarah Conly's book Against Autonomy is the first full-length, philosophical exploration and defense of a much broader, and coercive, paternalism ... This is a well-written, thoughtful, informed, treatment of its topic. One test of the quality of a book's argumentation is to see, when a doubt arises in one's mind about some claim, whether the author, at some point, addresses it. Conly passes this test with high marks ..."
Gerald Dworkin, University of California, Davis, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"... a timely and important addition to the literature on paternalism ... this is a well-written, well-argued volume that will be of interest to undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers ... Highly recommended ..."
J. S. Taylor, The College of New Jersey, Choice
"... a concise and coherent argument worth considering by students and the lay public interested in the intersection of philosophy, politics, and psychology. It is written in plain language with minimal philosophical jargon, and is both accessible and eminently readable ... Overall, the book is coherent and generally very well-argued ..."
Matthew A. Butkus, Metapsychology
"... a thought-provoking contribution (in every sense of the word provoking) both to general practical philosophy and to biomedical ethics in particular ... this book is worth reading because it poses the right questions and does not shy away from consequences which may be drawn from this although violating political correctness at first sight ... should be studied by everyone who is interested in defending autonomy and liberty for finite human beings."
Michael Quante, Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy
"... usefully illuminates the moral-ethical complexities and risks of community-based lawyering for pro bono attorneys who stand up in defense of impoverished communities."
Michigan Law Review
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Top Customer Reviews
Finance: She argues that the best way to encourage people to have a certain amount of savings is to make it illegal for you to not have a certain amount in savings. She seems to forget that there are those who are working two jobs and making just enough money to be broke. Isn't the point of savings so that you have a "rainy day fund?" If that rainy day hits, causing you to deplete your savings, the result will be that you'll be in violation of the law. Her view that coercing people into saving will be addictive, thus causing people to save more than the minimum amount required. Yeah, okay.
Food: What if every food that was "unhealthy" was suddenly illegal? Ice cream? Too much sugar! Crackers? You don't need all those carbs! Bacon? Officer, arrest that man! Imagine: no size larger than Small, no more buffets, and say goodbye to Thanksgiving.Read more ›
Conly first takes on the idea of autonomy itself: why do Western philosophers find it to be so valuable, such that we'd rather respect autonomy than help people actually live well? (Is it really better to respect autonomy by letting others drink themselves to death than to try and keep them alive by limiting their ability to buy alcohol?) Conly takes primary aim at John Stuart Mill's defense of liberty, arguing against Mill's idea that autonomy derives much of its value by allowing people to be heterodox and not have to conform to public opinion or authority.Read more ›
Fortunately, however, while human beings don't reason well, government officials do. This is because they are able to be more objective than we are. Again, Conly explains this very well: "Since we do better at estimating efficacy when we are in a relatively objective position, government, insofar as those in it are not the ones who are at present tempted by the rewards of the poor decision, can help us do better to reach our own, individual goals better than we would do if left to our own devices" (pg. 10).
And indeed, our history proves Conly's claim, as objective government officials have acted with the reason and balance of experts who are not tempted by direct involvement in the questions being decided: the Sedition Act of 1798, which led to the imprisonment of newspaper editors who criticized government. Indian removal. The Fugitive Slave Act. The Dred Scott decision. The Wounded Knee massacre. Plessy v. Ferguson. Jim Crow laws. The firebombing of Tokyo. The mass internment of Japanese-Americans. The secret bombing of Cambodia. Drone attacks on Pakistani wedding parties. Indefinite military detention. The wisdom of government is virtually infinite, and has created a world of steady progress. When we act individually, we are irrational and reckless. When government officials act upon the human society from which they ascended, they do better to help us all reach our proper goals.
Indeed, this is but a partial list, as it omits the deep wisdom of, say, the European state.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Sara Conly responds to almost all of the complaints in the reviews that are posted as I write this. Her view is not totalitarianism. Her view is also not elitist. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Nick Byrd
Many of the reviews here seem to be based on a superficial reading at best. I disagree with many of Conly's conclusions,
but the book is interesting and provocative in many... Read more
You need to take into consideration that she is an Ivy League/Princeton graduate; they revel in this kind of thing. They pump out paternalistic megalomaniacs by the wagonload. Read morePublished on June 30, 2013 by FGBartlett
Let me preface this review by saying that at the end of the day, I'm not convinced, but that does not mean that Sarah Conly has not written an interesting and provocative book that... Read morePublished on April 18, 2013 by theottersden
First, this philosophy professor should re-read the warnings of George Santayana. Academics like her were making similar noise in their classrooms in Europe in the '20's and 30's,... Read morePublished on April 11, 2013 by Leonard Henry
If your goal is to find a collection of the most specious of arguments for an omnipotent state involving itself in the most minute personal matters you have come to the right... Read morePublished on March 27, 2013 by B. Rosen
They will love this book in the faculty lounge where pesky reality never intrudes. Kind of like the way our country is being run these days...Published on March 26, 2013 by Marilee Savage
Yes, I could never be trusted to pick this book myself. I will join a book club and only read books chosen by the group. That way I'll never read a silly book like this one. Read morePublished on March 7, 2013 by Mark
This woman is a Marxist--none of her desires outlined in this book are good.
If a people are not good at making decisions for themselves--neither are the leaders they... Read more