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July 16, 2007

Making It Without the Help of Nanny State


Government today runs part of our lives, and is continually reaching for more. “Nanny State” therefore cannot be a better name for it. In fact, it would not be ludicrous to refer to it as an actual, breathing person: Nanny State. This Nanny State claims to want to best for us. She is, however, in charge of 300 million children for whom she can set one schedule and apply one nurturing strategy. Except, these children are not really children. And – we don’t like to say this in front of her – but Nanny State is not really all that bright.


Once upon a time, Nanny State was imagined to be only a part-time contractor – existing for the purpose of providing security, highways and a foreign policy. She, however, has grown quite fond of us, and has decided to do everything for us. She thinks she has the duty to control all education and maintain a welfare program. She has convinced us that she should take a large chunk of our money, and force us to put away some more of it in a Social Security account that yields insulting interest.


Nanny State has decided to zone cities and towns, pinpoint fuel emission standards and take away parents’ discretion to spank their own children. In some places, the mean Nanny State has forbidden games like tag and dodge ball because they are “exclusionary.” In this one place called Massachusetts, she is even trying to control which way bathroom doors swing.


Many of us can do very well without the help of Nanny State, thank you very much. But she insists, and quite strongly, that she knows what’s best for us. In fact, after apparently going through a health-craze phase, she has decided to take care of both our individual and collective health for us.


Her first instinct, of course, is to socialize health care. But she is still waiting to hear back from her neighbor, Mountie Nanny State, on any positive news about this socialized medicine deal. Apparently, the last time she checked, Mountie’s children were dying in waiting rooms before the doctors could get to them. Pretty sicko.


So until she figures out how to fully manage a health care system that will not bleed her children to death, Nanny State is going to prevent them from getting sick in the first place. One of the places she will try this, is, you guessed it . . . Massachusetts! She will impose a trans-fat ban because her children are clearly not mature enough to know what is healthy for them.


Nanny State will show restaurants how to cook and humans what to eat – isn’t that exactly what the Founding Fathers entrusted her with in the first place? There is actually a note about this on the back of the Declaration of Independence, right next to the map of the National Treasure. Just in case you didn’t know.


But making restaurants cook in a particular manner is clearly not enough. Nanny State is increasingly forbidding restaurants and bars from allowing smoking in their establishments, in order to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke and to discourage smoking in general. But if living a healthier life is more valuable to smokers than smoking itself, would it not be up to them to decide whether to quit?


Should we not allow market forces to decide whether bars and restaurants adopt a smoke-free policy? If a non-smoker wants clean air, he is extremely free to avoid going to a restaurant that allows smoking. In turn, some establishments would find it profitable to attract non-smokers by banning smoking in their own restaurants. But who is Nanny State to decide whether someone can enjoy a cigarette at their favorite bar?


This all leads to the real big question: Where does Nanny State draw the line? If she is perfectly comfortable regulating what we eat and where we smoke, little can stop her from, say, controlling how much we work out. Perhaps a limit on driving is in order, or perhaps a law regulating a minimum distance between parking lots and stores, in order to encourage walking.


Maybe at some point Nanny State will shut off all television stations at 10:30 at night, so as to make sure we get the sleep we need. Heck, if trans-fat can be banned, what is inherently worse about banning desserts? That Molten Chocolate Cake at Chili’s could very well be the next to go.


The problems with a big, active, controlling Nanny State are numerous. For one, her ideas seldom work. In addition, she eradicates any sense of individual responsibility. Quite importantly, her actions are not sustainable in the long run, and there is absolutely no indication as to the point where she must stop interfering in individuals’ lives.


We already have parents. We just need someone to provide us with judges, traffic lights and nukes. Nanny State must hence be fired as a mother figure, and brought back to her original role of providing little more than roads and jails. She might not realize it, but by leaving us alone, she would be helping us all far more than she ever could today.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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