Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as Hoek, J., Public Health, Regulation and the Nanny State Fallacy, Partnerships, Proof and Practice - International Nonprofit and Social Marketing Conference 2008, University of Wollongong, 15-16 July 2008.


Regulations designed to prevent third parties from harming individuals have achieved widespread acceptance, yet proposals to limit the harm individuals might cause to themselves have generated considerable debate. While some argue that moral and economic imperatives require state intervention, others claim individuals’ choices should not be constrained, no matter how harmful these might prove to be. Opponents of regulation regularly describe state interventions to promote public health as “nanny state”, and accuse the government of trying to assume a decision-making role they argue belongs with individuals. These arguments are explored using proposals to limit food marketing. Our analysis suggests rejection of government intervention by describing this as “nanny statist” is illogical and avoids much needed rational debate over the options that might best promote public health objectives.