Paternalism implies the policy of providing for the individual, without giving him the responsibility or the opportunity to provide for his own needs. The authority may see the individual's needs as different from the individual's own view of his needs. Paternalism may take the form of feudalism, agricultural paternalism or industrial paternalism. It can include political paternalism in the sense of dictatorship or of state social welfare and nationalized industries, and family or tribal paternalism. Paternalism may also be no more than a rationalization for racism.
Paternalism is the basic structure for most tribal and traditional family situations. Feudalism exists particularly in underdeveloped countries notably in Latin America and Asia. Industrial paternalism may exist wherever factories have grown up but tends to diminish as labour becomes unionized, although many large corporations may still provide their own insurance and other schemes in addition to national benefits. Paternalism in the socialistic sense of state welfare and nationalized industries occurs in certain western European countries, in other capitalist countries, and in communist countries.
There are several conditions, when met, justify paternalism toward a person. These include: (a) the defect, encumbrance, or limitation in deciding, willing, or acting on the part of that person; (b) the person's high probability of serious harm apart from a paternalistic intervention; (c) the probability that a paternalistic intervention will produce a net balance of benefit over harm to the person; and (d) selection of the least restrictive, least insulting, least humiliating means of intervention.