Briefly Noted: A History of Paternalism

Government-sponsored public health campaigns have given us many memorably mockable moments, from talking crash-test dummies to “I learned it by watching you!” Now, courtesy of the federal government’s National Institutes of Health, you can relive those campaigns (or at least the print versions of them) via a searchable, browsable online archive at ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/view/all/what/Posters.

Gawk at racy pro-condom campaigns from the 1980s, snicker at the politically incorrect anti-V.D. and anti-prostitution posters directed at World War I and World War II troops, marvel at temperance campaigns from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The archive includes similar propaganda—er, important public service announcements —from all over the world. If there’s one point on which the United States, apartheid-era South Africa, and the former Soviet Union all agree, it’s that citizens aren’t capable of making good decisions about food, drink, sex, and risk without government prodding. 

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