214986 Is Liberty Bad for Your Health?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 : 9:10 AM - 9:30 AM

Michael Allen, PhD, Philosophy , Philosophy Department, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN
While it did not prioritize the value of liberty, ancient political philosophy did nonetheless directly equate social justice with the public health of the shared political community. By contrast, modern political philosophy has prioritized the value of individual liberty, but only at the cost of undermining the equation of justice and with the communitarian conception of health made by the ancients. Indeed, health ceased almost entirely to be a category for evaluating social justice, being replaced instead by the priority of liberty rights to self-preservation and exclusive claims to private property. In light of recent empirical work on the social determinants of health inequities even in those modern liberal societies that prioritize individual liberty, this might well be taken to suggest that liberty is bad for your health. But is liberty necessarily bad for your health? This depends entirely on how liberty is construed in relation to justice and equity, and indeed the concept of health itself. I explore recent work in contemporary political philosophy on the concept of liberty to suggest ways in which this political ideal may be harmonized once more with an appropriate concept of health, thus giving recognition to public health as an imperative of social justice.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Diversity and culture
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related education
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify reasons given by ancient political philosophers for the equation of justice with health. 2. Identify reasons given by modern political philosophers for the different equation of justice with liberty, sideling the concept of health. 3. Identify reasons given by the author demonstrating how the prioritization of liberty may be integrated with health, as an imperative of social justice.

Keywords: Social Justice, Ethics

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified in that I am a professional political philosopher and I co-teach a course on Social Justice with the Dean of the College of Public Health at ETSU
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.