A Nanny State?
Next week on Facebook I intend to write about the Nanny State and while use of the term ‘Nanny State’ may be new in 1898 Woodrow Wilson was to write in his book The State; Elements of Historical and Practical Politics, No student of history can wisely censure those who protest against state paternalism.
Next Wednesday’s article is an op-ed in The New York Times titled “Three Cheers for the Nanny State”, that dismisses principled concerns about paternalism and presents arguments in favour of it¹.
State paternalism advocates defend the sentiment that government should regulate what its people can do, essentially deciding what is best for us. Foundation for Economic Education (2017)
Looking again at the era of prohibition in the United States, I think it is important to remember Handcuffs by Fernando Pessoa, the most universally beloved Portuguese poet. Before exposing the consequences of prohibition, Pessoa gives us two critical paragraphs about the morale of prohibition saying:
Let’s not look at the social case; Treating it is not in the nature of this review, nor, therefore, of this article.
Let us not consider what is depressing and ignoble in the circumstance of prescribing to an adult, to a man, what is to drink and what is not to drink; of putting him a muzzle like a dog or a straitjacket like a madman.
Let us not consider that, going this way, there is no right place where it should logically be stopped: and if the state tells us what we shall drink, why not decree what we shall eat, dress, do?
Why not prescribe where we are to live, with whom we are to marry or not to marry, with whom shall we have a relation or nor? All these things matter to our physical and moral health; and if the state is willing to be a doctor, tutor, and nurse for one of them, why should not it be so for all? Handcuffs by Fernando Pessoa,
Referenced Articles & Books: A book or pdf (usually free), or simply a url that may sometimes link to a download that is also usually free. Sometimes a link to JSTOR is used, this lets you set up a free account allowing you to have 3 (interchangeable) books stored that you can read online.
¹What’s Wrong with Paternalism and the “Nanny State” (url): Paternalism necessary involves presumptive external judgments of people’s interests, and it is these artificial interests, not people’s own, that are promoted by paternalism in the end.
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