The Nanny State
This week on Facebook: The connection between inequality and economic growth is mostly lost on the indigent and those prospering in a paternalistic and what is often called the Nanny State¹. Nevertheless, it is clear that the majority of people are willing to sacrifice personal and moral freedoms in pursuit of the perceived benefits of living in a paternalistic Nanny State.
This is particularly true in the UK where a majority tyranny is exercised compelling the acceptance of State control, where those on the political left and right mostly argue about the fiscal policy needed to stimulate economic growth, with opposing policies that advocate an end to Government Spending and Austerity versus those of avoiding a Sovereign Default. Both sides finding themselves hoist on the petard of an ever increasing commitment to a Welfare State, which makes their proposed welfare system limited by Sovereign Debt, thwarting any political desire for the effective implementation of all their fiscal policies.
This is not to say that all the controls existing in a paternalistic Nanny State are bad or undesirable. Much is written about the virtues of a Nanny State (read Wednesday’s and Thursday’s articles), also there are many books and articles written in support of a paternalistic Nanny State—particularly in relation to corporate and public misfeasance.
The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog. Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1935 pdf)
In the case of nutrition and health, just as in the case of education, the gentleman in Whitehall really does know better what is good for people than the people know themselves. Douglas Jay The Socialist Case (1937 pdf)
However, a State that wishes to control its people using the Sovereignty of the State must be policed. The effectiveness of policing and enforcing such controls and laws brings the ethos of the State into question. So we might ask who decides? Does a Nanny State introduces an unacceptable level of tyranny in it deciding what is best? What is a tyranny?
It has to be decided whether any law made can be enforced, or enforced with enough impartiality and constancy to stop its becoming an intolerable affront to the principle of legal equality. Failing this, the presence of an unenforceable law on the statute book should at least have a favourable effect on human behaviour — that it will perform the functions of a sermon rather than a threat. If the law is to be made, it must also be established that the cost of enforcing it in terms of human happiness and virtue is not so great as to offset the merits of enforcing it. T. E. Utley — Who Decides?
Since 1980 the term nanny state has risen exponentially on a trajectory that correlates with a rise in those books written about the welfare provide by the Nanny State from 1980 onwards. The left and right debate continues and as the CATO Institute have written:
One of the more disturbing trends in government expansion over the last 30 years has been the collection of laws, regulations, and binding court decisions that make up the ”nanny state.” Those laws and regulations represent government at its most arrogant. Their message is clear: politicians and bureaucrats know more about how to live your life, manage your health, and raise your kids than you do. The Nanny State — CATO Institute
Last week’s post implied that the will of the people is not a consideration of a self-serving governing elite political class and that the notion of democracy in public administration being in the hands of an electorate is already nullified. The tyranny of the Nanny State increasingly becomes the subjugation of the people by the State in its inexorable drive towards reinforcing the authority of the political class².
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. C.S. Lewis — God in the Dock
Monday — Tough Love in the Nanny State: Residents might not have the choice to drive a car, but the roads flow smoothly without traffic jams, the public transport runs efficiently, and Singapore’s air is among the cleanest in Asia. Singaporeans can indeed go ahead and breathe deeply… but they may have to watch their manners, and their mouths.
Tuesday — Excessive’ regulation and ‘sin taxes: “Excessive” regulation and so called “sin taxes” mean that only Finland and Sweden are worse than the UK when it comes to intervening in lifestyle freedoms, the 2016 Nanny State Index found.
Wednesday — Three Cheers for the Nanny State: We have a vision of ourselves as free, rational beings who are totally capable of making all the decisions we need to in order to create a good life. Give us complete liberty, and, barring natural disasters, we’ll end up where we want to be. It’s a nice vision, one that makes us feel proud of ourselves. But it’s false.
Friday — Government Cannot Solve Every Societal Problem: Obviously, there is a proper role for government, and the limits of that role will always be the subject of political debate. But perhaps the next time we encounter a problem in society, we should think twice before asking government to solve it for us.
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.
¹The Nanny State Index 2017 (download): The Nanny State Index (NSI) is a league table of the worst places in the European Union to eat, drink, smoke and vape. The initiative was launched in March 2016 and was a media hit right across Europe. It is masterminded and led by IEA’s Christopher Snowdon with partners from all over Europe. The 2017 edition of the index was revealed during a full day conference in Brussels and featured high level discussions and debates between MEPs, industry experts, think tankers and regulators about the effects of regulation on health outcomes.
²Rise of the Nanny State (url): Inspired by “libertarian paternalism,” it suggests that the goal of public policies should be to steer citizens towards making positive decisions as individuals and for society while preserving individual choice.
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