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Responsibility, Paternalism and Alcohol Interlocks
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology.
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology.
(English)In: Ethics of Health Promotion, SpringerChapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Drink driving causes great suffering and material destruction. The alcohol interlock promises to eradicate this problem by technological design. Traditional counter-measures to drink driving such as policing and punishment and information campaigns have proven insufficient. Extensive policing is expensive and arguably intrusive. Severe punishment may be disproportionate to the risks created in most single cases. If the interlock becomes inexpensive and convenient enough, and if there are no convincing moral objections to the device, it may prove the only feasible as well as the only justifiable solution to the problem of drink driving. Taking this to heart, the former Swedish government, supported by the National Road Administration and a 2006 final report of the Alcohol Interlock Commission, proposed that interlocks should be required as standard equipment in all cars. This article assesses two possible moral objections to a policy of mandatory interlocks: 1) That it displaces the responsibility of individual drivers, and 2) that it constitutes a paternalistic interference with drivers. The first objection is found unconvincing, while the second has only limited bite and may be neutralized if paternalism is accepted for the sake of greater net liberty. If technological development can make mandatory interlocks cost-efficient, the proposed policy seems a commendable public health measure.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer.
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-10945OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-10945DiVA: diva2:232994
Note
QC 20100714Available from: 2009-08-27 Created: 2009-08-27 Last updated: 2010-08-31Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Anti-paternalism and Public Health Policy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Anti-paternalism and Public Health Policy
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is an attempt to constructively interpret and critically evaluate the liberal doctrine that we may not limit a person’s liberty for her own good, and to discuss its implications and alternatives in some concrete areas of public health policy. The thesis starts theoretical and goes ever more practical. The first paper is devoted to positive interpretation of anti-paternalism with special focus on the reason component – personal good. A novel generic definition of paternalism is proposed, intended to capture, in a generous fashion, the object of traditional liberal resistance to paternalism – the invocation of personal good reasons for limiting of or interfering with a person’s liberty. In the second paper, the normative aspect of this resistance is given a somewhat technical interpretation in terms of invalidation of reasons – the blocking of reasons from influencing the moral status of actions according to their strength. It is then argued that normative anti-paternalism so understood is unreasonable, on three grounds: 1) Since the doctrine only applies to sufficiently voluntary action, voluntariness determines validity of reasons, which is unwarranted and leads to wrong answers to moral questions. 2) Since voluntariness comes in degrees, a threshold must be set where personal good reasons are invalidated, leading to peculiar jumps in the justifiability of actions. 3) Anti-paternalism imposes an untenable and unhelpful distinction between the value of respecting choices that are sufficiently voluntary and choices that are not. The third paper adds to this critique the fourth argument that none of the action types typically proposed to specify the action component of paternalism is such that performing an action of that type out of benevolence is essentially morally problematic. The fourth paper ignores the critique in the second and third papers and proposes, in an anti-paternalistic spirit, a series of rules for the justification of option-restricting policies aimed at groups where some members consent to the policy and some do not. Such policies present the liberal with a dilemma where the value of not restricting people’s options without their consent conflicts with the value of allowing people to shape their lives according to their own wishes. The fifth paper applies the understanding of anti-paternalism developed in the earlier papers to product safety regulation, as an example of a public health policy area. The sixth paper explores in more detail a specific public health policy, namely that of mandatory alcohol interlocks in all cars, proposed by the former Swedish government and supported by the Swedish National Road Administration. The policy is evaluated for cost-effectiveness, for possible diffusion of individual responsibility, and for paternalistic treatment of drivers. The seventh paper argues for a liberal policy in the area of dissemination of information about uncertain threats to public health. The argument against paternalism is based on common sense consequentialist considerations, avoiding any appeal to the normative anti-paternalism rejected earlier in the thesis.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2009. viii, 38 p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831
Keyword
Alcohol Interlocks; Altruism; Anti-paternalism; Epistemic paternalism; Group consent; Harm principle; Interference; Invalidation of reasons; Liberalism; Limiting liberty; Private sphere; Product safety regulation; Public health policy; Reason-actions; Self-regarding; Social responsibility; Uncertain information; Withholding of information.
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-10947 (URN)978-91-7415-226-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-09-08, F3, Lindstedtsv. 26, KTH, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20100714Available from: 2009-08-27 Created: 2009-08-27 Last updated: 2010-07-14Bibliographically approved
2. Moral responsibility and the ethics of traffic safety
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Moral responsibility and the ethics of traffic safety
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

The general aim of this thesis is to present and analyse traffic safety from an ethical perspective and to explore some conceptual and normative aspects of moral responsibility. Paper I presents eight ethical problem areas that should be further analysed in relation to traffic safety. Paper II is focused on the question of who is responsible for traffic safety, taking the distribution of responsibility adopted through the Swedish policy called Vision Zero as its starting point. It is argued that a distinction should be made between backwardlooking and forward-looking responsibility and that Vision Zero should be understood in terms of this distinction. Paper III discusses responsibility ascriptions in relation to public health problems like obesity and lung cancer. It is argued that what makes discussions about who is responsible for such problems complicated is that we have two aims when ascribing responsibility to someone. First, we want responsibility ascriptions to be fair and morally justified. Second, we also want to achieve progress and solve problems through ascribing responsibility to someone. It is argued that the two aims influence debates concerning who is responsible for problems like obesity and lung cancer and that we should attempt at striking a balance that is both perceived as fair and that is efficient. Paper IV discusses two potential arguments against the suggestion that alcohol interlocks should be mandatory in all cars, namely 1) that it displaces the responsibility of individual drivers, and 2) that it constitutes a paternalistic interference with drivers. The first objection is found unconvincing, while the second only has limited bite and may be neutralized if paternalism is accepted for the sake of greater net liberty. It is argued that if technological development can make mandatory interlocks cost-efficient, the policy seems a commendable public health measure. In Paper V, the question discussed is to what extent individuals should be ascribed moral responsibility for the environmentally damaging consequences of their actions. It is argued that responsibility depends on the reasonableness of the alternatives open to an individual when acting. The lack of reasonable alternatives should reduce the degree of individual responsibility.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2008. viii, 22 p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831
Keyword
moral responsibility, ethics, traffic safety, public health, environment
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-4670 (URN)978-91-7178-815-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2008-04-03, Sal F3, KTH, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm, 13:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20100831Available from: 2008-03-18 Created: 2008-03-18 Last updated: 2010-08-31Bibliographically approved

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