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Nanny State

Dr. Helen mentions a book that looks like it’s worth a read. Nanny State: How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and other Boneheaded Bureaucrats are Turning America into a Nation of Children.

In so many ways, the state has become the babysitter and infantilizer of all of us, even adults and the most depressing part to me is that we are allowing it, bit by bit, every time we give the state more and more authority in the form of petty laws that control the lives of countless citizens in ways that take away personal autonomy while at the same time, doing little to prevent or severely punish those who are truly violent.

I’ve often wondered why we tolerate so much intrusion into the country’s daily life from the political class.   I’m not a “golden age” libertarian, that is one who believes we’re fallen from some imagined time when government stayed out of people’s lives, and we had more freedom, but I do think there are two main factors at work today that contribute the country having such distasteful political leadership.

  1. The elevation of democracy above liberty as an ideal of government.
  2. Less involvement in political parties by people with healthy motivations.

It’s been said that Democracy is three wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for lunch.  Somewhere along the line we’ve gone from believing that the purpose of government is to protect liberty, to the purpose of government is to do the will of the people.  In the past, this type of government wasn’t possible, because it was hard to gauge public opinion.  Now with polls, and various other mechanisms, politicians see “Most people favor bans on smoking in restaurants.” and exploit that for political gain.  I don’t think people have ever been particularly committed to liberty, but polling lets the politicians know exactly what they can get away with.

The second factor is obvious any time you step into the voting booth on a general election day.  Since I first voted for George H.W. Bush over Bill Clinton in the 1992 election (my first election where I was over 18), I have never once pulled the lever for someone I really felt I was excited about and that I felt represented me.  Why?  I think because most people who want smaller government and more autonomy don’t really have the time to participate in politics on the party level, or vote in primaries.  A very small percentage of people are deciding who we get to vote for.  There’s no doubt many of them are activists who want to get something out of government.   Interest group politics are as old as the Republic, but I wonder today who the are the constituency that stands for liberty?   Sure, there are groups, think tanks, and what have you, but that doesn’t seem to be translating into leadership that can carry that banner.

3 Responses to “Nanny State”

  1. Robb Allen says:

    I spoke about this recently on why I’m a gun nut. We tend to ignore the perfidies of government when they either don’t affect us (e.g. ban gay marriage? Who cares? I’m not gay!) or the end result benefits us (e.g. ban smoking in schools? Sure! I like smoke free day care centers!).

    The problem is that power is only additive when given to governments. Never will a government entity willingly give up power. Who in their right mind would do a job with the express purpose of working themselves out of the same job?

    There is a joke about Republicans who say how awful government is then get elected and prove it.

    I think what we need is the ability to not only vote for a person for office, but also vote on the need for the office to exist in the first place.

  2. straightarrow says:

    Who in their right mind would do a job with the express purpose of working themselves out of the same job?

    Construction workers, especially in industrial construction.

  3. Robb Allen says:

    SA, not really because there will always be more construction to perform. I’m a computer developer and I always try to write code that won’t require me to rewrite it 6 months. But there will always be newer projects to work on.

    If I could write a program that would write all my other programs from here on out, I don’t think I’d do that because then I’d have no work to do. The sad part is that I’ve singlehandedly written an application that caused a person to lose their job.

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