The ‘nanny state’? April 14, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Eamon Delaney wrote in both the SBP and Independent the weekend before last about ‘the long overreach’ of the nanny state. Which is hardly untypical given his form as part of the Hibernia Forum – self-described think tank for all things pro-market. The two pieces are remarkably similar in phrasing, and near enough identical in content.
Whether any of it holds up is a different matter. For example, He suggests:
This week, in Australia, a national women’s group proposed that the Government there introduce plain packaging for children’s toys!
‘Sexualisation of young children through products, dress, toys and cosmetics’ it wrote in a formal submission ‘reinforces that girls should be sexy, submissive and boys should be dominant, macho, important and strong. These products reinforce boys to grow to males that can be powerful and strong and that girls need to be attractive and submissive to males. We suggest a campaign like the successful plain packaging of cigarettes,
‘If products for children did not have macho and dominant images for boys and sexy submissive images for girls’ it continued ‘then children are not having this image and concepts reinforced by the community in which they live.’
And comes to the conclusion that:
This might be described as extreme Political Correctness or more Health and Safety nonsense, but what it actually is the onward march of the Nanny State – everywhere, including, and especially, Ireland. The suggestion on ‘plain packaging’ is inspired by the proposal for the same on cigarette boxes, which both Australia, but also Ireland has been to the forefront on, as it was on a public smoking ban.
Er… except… the proposal came from a non-state group. That’s right. A group of people operating outside the orbit of the state. Granted they were demanding that the state do something, but the direction of the suggestion is crucial, and more over undercuts his contention entirely. He may not like it, but it’s no more ‘nanny-state’ – in the sense that it’s not the state initiating the process – than if the Hibernia Forum demanded of the state a range of policies at the most recent election. Oh, wait, they did – check out their site.
But the Nanny State is now multi-faceted and everywhere. This week, dog owners have been asked to micro-chips their dogs, while proposals are afoot to have a sugar tax on soft drinks, proposed calorie counters on restaurant menus and even a suggestion to outlaw the opening of a certain number of cafes in a certain area. Yes, we have an obesity problem, but notice how little focus there is here on encouraging people to look after their own health and take personal responsibility.
Actually, dog owners aren’t being asked to micro-chip, this is now the law and they are being told to micro-chip, and already a third of dogs are chipped. Why so?
That champion of socialism, Minister Simon Coveney, is quoted here explaining just why it might be a good idea.
I am very supportive of National Microchipping Month. Microchipping helps speed up the rehoming of lost or stray dogs. This will reduce the cost of caring for dogs while owners are being located. It will reduce stress on people who have lost their animals.
I’m kind of all in favour of people taking responsibility for dogs as for themselves, but sometimes people have to be pushed towards taking responsibility or aren’t in a position to do so for one reason or another. But these are good solid reasons, as well as cost saving. And the range of bodies behind the idea of chipping includes representative bodies of veterinarians as well as dog welfare charities – people who might know something about the area and tends to undercut notions of ‘political correctness’.
Not a great great example so from Eamon. He continues:
Instead, we have an increasing paternalism (or maternalism) in our government policy, and a growing official appetite to intrude into yet more aspects of our consumer and social behaviour. The human individual is a not a free agent and empowered, it seems, but a public resource, a potential ‘victim’ and someone to be managed. And the law is brought into every sphere, including employment.
But hold on again. The Australian example is non-governmental. The chipping example is supported by non-state agencies (and some commercial organisations). As for the law coming into employment – pull the other one. Of course the law should be involved in employment, it is, has been and will continue to do so. Nothing strange about that at all and it’s risible to suggest this is novel.
On that there’s there’s this:
For example, how ironic that the nanny state may do away with the actual nanny, or au pair! The traditional arrangement where a young au pair got bed, board and language classes, and often life-long companionship, in lieu of a sometimes lower wage is to be done away with by those campaigning for the sort of strict employment laws and minimum wage seen in a more conventional workplace. Families, and au pairs, are upset at this. But the Nanny Staters don’t care. They’ll feel smugly satisfied that they have stopped ‘the potential for exploitation.’ And perhaps they have, but they have also ruined a unique and enduring cultural phenomenon.
Hmmm… that last seems like an excuse for many a form of exploitation, no? Unique and enduring cultural phenomena… Well. Though given that the examples so far are nothing to do with the ‘nanny state’ the irony he mentions at the start of the quote is entirely absent.
Then he suggests that:
Elsewhere, growing Nanny State regulation adds to the costs of doing business and creating jobs. The sugar tax, for example, is surely a punitive and wrong-headed measure which seeks to penalise business rather than focus on broader health policies.
I’m somewhat agnostic about sugar tax – but if there are strong arguments to tax it for health reasons then let the science guide us. And what “broader” health policy does he suggest? Given that he doesn’t suggest how a government which he chides for any intervention at all in these areas due to its supposed ‘nanny statism’ can do anything it’s difficult to take seriously the idea he believes that it should.
Then there’s this…
The Government’s approach is also hypocritical. While it criticises and curbs smoking, for example, it takes a huge whack of tax out of it. It is the same with alcohol, where the State takes over 50% of the retail price in tax. These may be sins, but the State profits from them until salvation!
Is that hypocritical? Taxation directed to social ends surely is… well… taxation directed to social ends.
He has half a point about targeting low-cost alcohol in super-markets – though only half a point. It’s more that the impacts seem to fall disproportionately on those with lower incomes that is the problem (and there is an absolute absurdity in regard to the times when alcohol can be sold – I’ve known more than my fair share of alcoholics unfortunately from close relatives out, they tended to be well prepared for such eventualities and for the rest of us it’s simply a somewhat foolish inconvenience. On the other hand it’s not the end of the world).
Yet in all this he seems to think this is government directed.
…clearly many of these measures are more about public image and a growing Government appetite to regulate our lives, rather than a genuine belief about the measure’s effectiveness or fairness,
Does he genuinely believe that? In terms of smoking, alcohol and other areas there are clear societal (and health) issues in regard to the products involved. All the complaining about ‘nanny statism’ won’t do away with a basic truth that there are overwhelming problems in regard to smoking and significant issues in relation to alcohol.
I’m utterly against prohibition of alcohol but it is something around which some framework should and does exist.
Experts though? Experts!
We hear a constant stream of experts and quango representatives looking for new laws, regulations, and, of course, more resources to further their ‘social improvements’.
But this is to diminish that reality noted above further.
And how about this?
And in tandem with this we see an increasing dependency on the State in terms of direction and welfare.
Again, does he genuinely believe that? I’d be fascinated by some tangible evidence for that. Sure it fits with any number of prejudices, but the reality?
Of course he continues on a sort of slippery slope line…
One wonders if there is any end to the things politicians want to legislate on in our lives, from our consumption of products to the way we express ourselves. Labour Senator, Lorraine Higgins has been advocating a bill to restrict name calling on the internet and social media, a laudable aim perhaps but we already have libel laws, and many would be worried by the implications of Higgins bill for free speech and expression.
Anyhow, he tries heroically to introduce something a little more empirical.
Unsurprisingly, it was revealed this week that Ireland scores a very high fourth place in a new survey of Nanny State culture across the EU.
The Nanny State Index compiled by the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, in partnership with EPICENTER (the European Policy Information Center) is the first comprehensive evaluation of paternalistic lifestyle regulation in Europe. Using 32 criteria related to food, soft drinks, alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarettes, the survey identifies the best and worst countries to eat, drink and smoke in. Ireland is at 4th place, just behind the UK, which is not a surprise given how much we follow British legislation and official behaviour.
It hardly needs to be said that the IEA is an economically hard right free market outfit. The EPICENTRE is itself pro-market. And the giveaway in all this is the small phrase… “ the survey identifies the best and worst countries to eat, drink and smoke in”. Smoke in – they say? These things are clues.
Anyhow, he concludes with a modish reference to the year that is in it…
Granted, we all want to see people obeying the laws, getting healthy and behaving properly, but many of us would think that this should be about individual responsibility and education, and not the growing Nanny State’s responsibility. Otherwise we will give away our freedom and self-reliance, and this is not the Irish spirit, especially in the centenary of 1916.
If he’d come close to proving any such ‘growing Nanny State responsibility’ he might have a point. But in the absence of same…