How far should the state interfere with the private lives of its citizens?

Interpretation of Keywords


Intervene in, intrude upon, meddle with – “nanny state”



Private lives:

privacy, personal choices in our individual lives (family planning, political value & affiliation , sexual orientation, religion, personal opinions on contentious issues in society)




must be confused with “can” — is it a principle that governments must follow?


there is a moral imperative for all states to follow a given set of policies.



Questions you may want to ask yourself:              

  1. What is the role of the state
  2. What is the role of the citizen
  3. How were these roles conceived
  4. Are they relative or absolute notions
  5. How do these roles help society to function
  6. How does society function and why does it function





The state should not interfere with the private lives of citizens because the state’s interference is tantamount to an infringement of the sacred/inalienable individual human rights of citizens/ uphold the sanctity of human rights. Liberals tend to point towards history and argue ardently that state interference has repeatedly resulted in crime against humanity and blatant abuse of human rights especially among political dissidents and minority groups.



Internal Security Act:

Was used for the arrest of political activists for their individual political beliefs – communism in the 1950s 1960s in Singapore



The imprisonment of human rights activists in China:

  1. Ai Weiwei, Liu Xiaobo, Chen Guangcheng

These three men were repeatedly persecuted for their subversive beliefs.



Great Firewall of China:

Censors dissenting political views









The state should intervene in the private lives for the greater good of society in the name of security and social order. Governments must intervene for the utilitarian purpose in order to uphold social security.


National Security Agency

  1. The Patriot Act in the U.S – after September 11 – grants the government with the right to have access to citizens’ phone calls and emails in their private lives



Individual liberty must sometimes be sacrificed for the greater good of society, especially in times of trans-border terrorism and religious fundamentalism in today’s turbulent world





2nd argument:

Private lives of citizens should also be subject to the public scrutiny of the state as it is vital for the government to safeguard social fabric and uphold mainstream values. This is being done to keep the cultural and political climate stable in a country. When these mainstream values are challenged, a large amount of resistance will be amassed. This resistance can come from the people or the governing body of a country. In order to reduce conflict in a country, we must maintain the status quo. When there is less conflict that exists in a country, the country can focus more energy on developing its economy and productivity.


Content in the media that conflicts with the dominant values of society:

  • nudity, expletives, homosexual content, religiously offensive content, offensive political satire, violence



[politically subversive examples]

To Singapore With Love:              

Portrays a historical narrative on the exile of communists in the early days— such a historical narrative is said to be an inaccurate portrayal of history.




[same sex movement examples]

LGBT movement

sexual orientation – advocacy does not conform to the mainstream values of society


Les Miserables:

The particular scene on same-sex intimacy was removed to suit the mainstream culture in Singapore.


The Kids are alright:

It is said to normalize/glamorise homosexual lifestyle — go against the mainstream value held by the local government of Singapore






Seat belt laws:

These laws ensure the safety of motorcar users, reducing the risk in the case of an accident. Thus maximising the personal well-being of all road users.



Current regulations on alcohol assumption:

This prevents youths from being embroiled and addicted to vices at a young age. This allows youths to be more productive in school as they have a lower likelihood of being inebriated, due to the inaccessibility of alcohol.


Age ratings:

Age ratings protect youths from developing unrealistic paradigms and worldviews. For example, if we were to allow young children to watch films which glorify the lifestyles of crime syndicates, these children would grow up thinking that it would be normal and acceptable to run brothels, commit murder and launder money. These values would lead to the degradation of a Nation as a whole, as the future generations are indoctrinated with beliefs which are subversive, causing social order to fall apart.


Social vice regulation:

Regulations on social vices in society — prostitution, pornography, gambling and the use of recreational drugs.


Allows the citizens to be more productive and efficient workers.





Ultimately, the main duty/role of a government should be to act as a public guardian of people’s welfare, as people may not know what is best for them in their individual actions. The governments most important responsibility is to ensure the welfare of its citizens, therefore it must interfere with the private lives of its citizens and place rules and regulations, which enable citizens to live responsibly and safely.


× Are you interested in joining our class?