‘We really have to protect people from wrong choices,” says Jonas, the main character in The Giver, a novel by Lois Lowry. In just nine words, he summarizes the entire philosophy of progressive paternalism, the idea that animates everything from Obamacare’s health-insurance mandate to New York City’s effort to ban Big Gulps.
As he speaks the line, Jonas feels troubled by what he has said, and even more disturbed by the world that surrounds him. Jonas doesn’t know it, but he inhabits one of those young-adult dystopias that are so popular right now as book-and-movie franchises. The Giver is the latest to reach theaters, with its big-screen version arriving on August 15. Yet the book came out in 1993, long before Katniss picked up a bow in The Hunger Games or Tris joined a faction in Divergent.