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James Harkin, in today’s Guardian, looks at David Cameron’s speech to the National Family and Parenting Institute and decides that he is a "libertarian paternalist". The apparently oxymoronic term conjures up an image of a disapproving father who makes clear what he thinks but doesn’t use coercion.

Cameron made a clear case for marriage in the speech but did fall short of advocating incentives – hopefully waiting for the social justice working group on the family to report its findings. Last night on Jonathan Ross, he made a clear stance against drug usage whilst signalling a higher emphasis on rehabilitation and education and an end to the "war on drugs".

What would a libertarian paternalist government be like? Would it engage in public information drives whilst allowing people to make the wrong choices? Most politicians outside of North Korea are libertarians to a degree, but at what point do you draw the line?

According to Harkin we don’t have far to look – Labour’s third term has already been based on this "astute piece of politicking". He points to its "second-guessing our behaviour through soft policy tools for moral persuasion", such as last week’s "Dad Pack wheeze".

This approach is very useful to Cameron while he is still creating an image and waiting for the policy groups, but come election it is unlikely to satisfy neither libertarians nor paternalists.

Deputy Editor

24 comments for: Is DC a libertarian paternalist?

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