A belief that the government does (and should) have broad authority to protect and improve health, coupled with an understanding that collective action is often necessary to address public health challenges effectively, is central to the public health mindset. But many are questioning whether this vision of a strong government role is applicable to non-communicable disease threats and the social determinants of health. Arguments about public health paternalism are playing a role in political opposition to new law and policy interventions and in legal challenges aimed at striking down existing public health laws. This article explores the forces behind the cultural and political resonance of concerns about public health paternalism, “personal responsibility,” and the “nanny state” and attempts to outlines a potential path forward from here.