Category Archive 'The Nanny State'

14 Jun 2010

Democracy and the Servile Mind

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Kenneth Minogue has a very important essay on the propensity of the modern democratic state to invade and to attempt to control regions of behavior and thought previously regarded as personal and private.

[W]hile democracy means a government accountable to the electorate, our rulers now make us accountable to them. Most Western governments hate me smoking, or eating the wrong kind of food, or hunting foxes, or drinking too much, and these are merely the surface disapprovals, the ones that provoke legislation or public campaigns. We also borrow too much money for our personal pleasures, and many of us are very bad parents. Ministers of state have been known to instruct us in elementary matters, such as the importance of reading stories to our children. Again, many of us have unsound views about people of other races, cultures, or religions, and the distribution of our friends does not always correspond, as governments think that it ought, to the cultural diversity of our society. We must face up to the grim fact that the rulers we elect are losing patience with us. …

Our rulers, then, increasingly deliberate on our behalf, and decide for us what is the right thing to do. The philosopher Socrates argued that the most important activity of a human being was reflecting on how one ought to live. Most people are not philosophers, but they cannot avoid encountering moral issues. The evident problem with democracy today is that the state is pre-empting—or “crowding out,” as the economists say—our moral judgments. Nor does the state limit itself to mere principle. It instructs us on highly specific activities, ranging from health provision to sexual practices. Yet decisions about how we live are what we mean by “freedom,” and freedom is incompatible with a moralizing state. That is why I am provoked to ask the question: can the moral life survive democracy?

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Gerard Van Der Leun via the News Junkie.

26 Dec 2008

The State Is Our Shepherd

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Hugo Rifkind survived Xmas without the advice of Britain’s Labour Government. It was obviously a Xmas miracle.

For all I know, this column is coming to you from beyond the grave. As I write, it is Christmas Eve. As you read, it is Boxing Day. I can’t really see myself making it through. You see, despite my best efforts, I have utterly failed to get hold of a copy of the Government’s festive safety leaflet, Tis the Season to be Careful.

Tis, tis it? Oh dear. I wonder what will get me? Will I sever an artery with scissors while excitedly opening a present? Take a lethal elbow to the nose, thanks to somebody else’s overenthusiastic tug on a Christmas cracker? Maybe I’ll get drunk and sit in the fireplace, or blow up the house by putting a gravy boat in the microwave. Maybe, who knows, I’ll fit the whole turkey over my head and, as the complete antithesis of that “Blind man sees” story that was in the newspapers the other day, run around excitedly until I fall off the landing. You know, like Joey would have done, if they’d had stairs in that apartment in Friends.

Alas, there is just no knowing. For the Government handed out 150,000 leaflets advising people on how not to kill themselves at Christmas, and my household didn’t end up with one. I’m feeling terribly exposed. And there must be plenty of other families in the same boat.

Maybe you read this now as the only survivor of your own little festive apocalypse. Under the dining room table, naked except for a party hat, beating off the advances of your snarling, brandy-butter-crazed family dog with the charred remains of grandma’s thighbone. “Nooooo!” you will be wailing. “If only I had been appraised of the stark and leafleted warnings of Baroness Morgan of Drefelin, the Minister for Children, in conjunction with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents! Woe! Woe!” Sob, growl, thunk. ..

Once you stop resenting nanny, you start to rely on her. If nanny tells you to stop smoking in pubs, you probably stop smoking in pubs. But, in time, you also stop thinking about whether you ought to smoke in pubs or not. And worse, if somebody else lights up next to you, you expect nanny to do something about it. It’s not your business or even really his. It’s just nanny’s business. You’ve both become morons.

Now nanny is telling you not to hurt yourself over Christmas. Chances are, you weren’t really planning to, anyway. Chances are, moreover, that you probably thought you were quite well equipped to avoid hurting yourself at Christmas all by yourself.

But nanny disagrees. Nanny doesn’t think that you are up to it. And, in time, you’ll probably start to believe her. In time, as a result, you will grow to consider your wellbeing at Christmas not to be your own problem at all, but to be nanny’s problem entirely. And that’s nuts.

In other words, you used to have a duty not to burn down your house and slaughter your entire family. Now, because nanny has taken on that duty, you have a right not to burn down your house and slaughter your entire family. Needless to say, this makes no sense at all.

Still, don’t come crying to me. It’s nanny’s fault, not mine. And anyway, as discussed, I’m probably dead.

Read the whole thing.

03 Sep 2007

Edwards Promises Forced Health Exams

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This kid is going get his health exam!


Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said on Sunday that his universal health care proposal would require that Americans go to the doctor for preventive care.

“It requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care,” he told a crowd sitting in lawn chairs in front of the Cedar County Courthouse. “If you are going to be in the system, you can’t choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK.”

He noted, for example, that women would be required to have regular mammograms in an effort to find and treat “the first trace of problem.” Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, announced earlier this year that her breast cancer had returned and spread.

Edwards said his mandatory health care plan would cover preventive, chronic and long-term health care. The plan would include mental health care as well as dental and vision coverage for all Americans.

“The whole idea is a continuum of care, basically from birth to death,” he said.

Socialized medicine plus coerced health examinations, what could be more appealing!

13 Sep 2006

Nelson… In a Life Preserver!

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Socialism is the philosophy of sissies, and now that everyone (including Socialists) recognizes that Socialism applied economically is a disaster, the energies of ameliorists tend to find outlet, not in the levelling of wealth, but in the elimination of any imaginable form of risk.

The New York Times reports that even Bill Callaghan, head of Britain’s Health and Safety Commission

believes that many of the decisions made in the name of health and safety in Britain are indeed asinine. These include schools requiring children to wear protective goggles when playing with nuts that have fallen from trees; schools banning bandages because of fears of latex allergies; and village fairs forbidding people to sell homemade cakes in case they contain contaminated eggs.

But the commission is blamed for them anyway. It set up a myth-busting page on its Web site explaining, for instance, that it was not involved in the decision last April to cancel a St. George’s Day breakfast in Wiltshire, after local officials ruled that the volunteer cooks were not formally trained in egg preparation…

Children who leave their coats and bags in special containers on field trips to the Science Museum in London, for example, are instructed by posted signs not to put anything on the lids, on account of Health and Safety rules. People buying cups of tea on British trains are ordered to carry them in paper bags for safety reasons — whether they want to or not.

Sailing down the placid Thames a year ago as part of the celebration marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, the actor playing Lord Nelson was required to accessorize his vintage admiral’s outfit with a contemporary life preserver, which tended to spoil the effect.

Nor are the Health and Safety Commission offices, at the end of Southwark Bridge in East London, immune to dispensing their own cautionary advice. Along with security passes, visitors are issued photocopied pamphlets offering instructions on how to identify the sound of the fire alarm (a “continuous ringing of bells”); where to go if a fire does break out (convene at the location marked on the map on the back); and what to do if they feel sick or fall down (there is a first-aid room on the first floor; all injuries, “no matter how minor,” must be reported).

Do you suppose Etonians are still allowed to play the Wall Game?

Hat tip to Frank Dobbs.

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