I’m sure there was a time when my liberalism was so rigid and fanatical that I thought absolute state neutrality mattered more than anything. I thought it followed that governments shouldn’t try to encourage good behaviour, regardless of whether there were disastrous social consequences of not doing so.
Not any more. For once, I gladly defer to David Brooks on the compelling case for soft paternalism:
[I]t is hard to feel that my decision-making powers have been weakened because when I got my driver’s license enrolling in organ donation was the default option. It’s hard to feel that a cafeteria is insulting my liberty if it puts the healthy fruit in a prominent place and the unhealthy junk food in some faraway corner. It’s hard to feel manipulated if I sign up for a program in which I can make commitments today that automatically increase my charitable giving next year. The concrete benefits of these programs, which are empirically verifiable, should trump abstract theoretical objections.