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In a liberal democratic society, paternalism is often indispensable. Although many view paternalism as a curtailment of liberty, many also view it as a form of protection from the harms that human beings are capable of inflicting on another. John Stuart Mill, although opposes paternalism, argues that it is justifiable to limit liberty as long as these constraints aim at preventing harm to be inflicted on other people.


Some scholars contend that the context and nuances of 'harmful' and 'harmless' are too broad and must be properly defined. Still, questions remain with regards which acts the state should criminalise and acts which the state should consider private and harmless. This paper will maintain Mill's argument that acts which evidently harm others should be criminalised. It will further argue that consensual acts in which consent lacks validity should also fall under the scope of the law and the control of private and 'harmless' behaviours fall beyond the aforementioned categories and is none of the state's business. However, the criminalisation of these acts, as Mill had argued, should not be meant to unnecessarily augment the power of the state.
In his work 'On Liberty,' John Stuart Mill brought forth the most compelling clarification on the distinction between liberalism and paternalism. He argues that 'the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised' over citizens, against their volition 'is to prevent harm to others' adding that 'the individual is sovereign' over himself (Mill, 24 ). ...
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