Caretaker or liberator?
in Evaluating parental power
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This chapter provides an analysis of paternalism by exploring the way that the concept of paternalism has been utilised in the 'caretaker thesis' and the 'liberation thesis'. To understand the caretaker thesis, it is helpful to start with the general liberal argument concerning legitimate power. The chapter examines Onora O'Neill's Kantian defence of the caretaker thesis according to which the fundamental moral principle is the requirement to respect autonomy. O'Neill denies that there is a moral conflict when parents interfere with their children's liberty in acting paternalistically. According to the caretaker thesis, parental power makes up for the deficits in children's agency, and for that reason, children should be subjected to standard institutional paternalism. The chapter argues that children with the capacity for liberty of action are owed a right to liberty even when they are incompetent and/or cannot execute decisions.

Evaluating parental power

An exercise in pluralist political theory


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