If my dad likes cigars, but I know they’re not good for him, should I give him cigars as presents anyway? I mean, on one hand, I want him to be healthy. On the other hand, I want him to be happy, and who am I to say “I know what’s good for you better than you do?” Then again, what if you are REALLY sure that it’s bad for him, say for instance he was smoking crack? Where do you draw the line between big-brother paternalism and necessary action to protect your friend’s health?
When we’re talking about government, I usually consider myself to be a libertarian. I think that if I don’t want to wear a seatbelt, and the only person that is hurt by that decision is myself, the government shouldn’t force me to wear it. However, there is a difference between the government and your friends and family. Can I condone action among my friends and family that I would not want the government to take?
Usually when I think of something that I believe to be bad but I can’t conclusively prove its evilness, I am in favor of educating people about the issues that make me think it’s bad, but not forcing them into my worldview. In general, I would rather have an education campaign than outlaw any particular behavior, if it does not infringe on the rights of others.
Actually, the cigar case is a little bit weird. My dad is a doctor, he knows as well as I do that cigars are bad for him. I guess he’s decided that they can’t do enough damage to him at this time in his life to make it worth abstaining. Actually, I don’t even know if that’s a reasonable decision, I’m not a doctor… but I suspect not. Cigars are even less healthy than cigarettes if I understand correctly, they don’t have filters on them or anything.
So should I give him the cigars if he wants him, and trust that he knows himself best? Is it meddling in his life if I don’t give him the cigars and try to stop him from smoking? Should I protect his health if he doesn’t want to protect it? Or if I think he’s acting stupid, is it necessary to at least not do anything to support that, if not to actually try to stop him in his course of action?
Dammit, I need to get comments installed somehow… e-mail if you feel like it 🙂