Liberals sometimes dream of a night-watchman state, securing property and person, but no more. They fret that societies have instead submitted to the nanny state, a protective but intrusive matriarch, coddling citizens for their own good. Economists, with their strong faith in rationality and liberty, have tended to agree. As many decisions as possible should be left in the individual's lap, because no one knows your interests better than you do. Most of us have gained from this freedom.Soft paternalism: The state is looking after you -- Economist.com
But a new breed of policy wonk is having second thoughts. On some of the biggest decisions in their lives, people succumb to inertia, ignorance or irresolution. Their private failings—obesity, smoking, boozing, profligacy—are now big political questions. And the wonks think they have an ingenious new answer—a guiding but not illiberal state.
What they propose is “soft paternalism” (see article). Thanks to years of patient observation of people's behaviour, they have come to understand your weaknesses and blindspots better than you might know them yourself. Now they hope to turn them to your advantage. They are paternalists, because they want to help you make the choices you would make for yourself—if only you had the strength of will and the sharpness of mind.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson