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Liberty for AllReclaiming Individual Privacy in a New Era of Public Morality$
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Elizabeth Price Foley

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780300109832

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300109832.001.0001

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Food, Drugs, and Alcohol

Food, Drugs, and Alcohol

(p.178) Chapter 8 Food, Drugs, and Alcohol
Liberty for All

Elizabeth Price Foley

Yale University Press

American law is characterized by increasing intolerance of individual sovereignty to make choices regarding which substances to consume. While the modern governmental power to prohibit ingestion of certain substances is essentially unlimited, most of this power is exercised illegitimately, in a way that is contrary to the limited purpose of government and the principle of residual individual sovereignty. The purported rationale for drug, alcohol, and other sumptuary laws is unabashed paternalism, but this paternalism is highly incomplete: it prohibits individuals from consuming some potentially harmful substances and allows them to consume others with no limitation. The inconsistency from substance to substance suggests that public morality, not paternalistic protection, is the real purpose behind sumptuary laws.

Keywords:   law, substances, governmental power, residual individual sovereignty, sumptuary laws, paternalism, public morality

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