Archive for category Nanny State
You start your car. Warning lights flash, because it’s three degrees and there is risk of ice. You drive and a warning sound tells you, that you’re running short of petrol. Your postman delivers a parcel. Lucky you, your order from Savile Row, but mind, packaging is plastic, danger to suffocate! So you want to have a break, a chocolate break, “cannot guarantee nut free”, it says. So let’s have a sip of water. No, danger looms, be careful when opening, because container is under pressure. So, what about something to eat? Something, low in calories, low in carbohydrates and low in cholesterol, of course, no, that won’t do, my stove uses gas and my pullover say’s “keep away from fire”. That leaves starvation or cookies as alternatives.
Sometimes, I wonder how I even manage to leave my house. I have to put on my shoes without strangling myself with shoelaces. I have to open the door, without hitting my head and I have to meet the opening without smashing my head against the doorframe…
Warnings are everywhere.
They are considered a pinnacle of modern development. They are here to root out human error. But I think what they accomplish is the exact opposite. The more you are subjected to warnings, the less you will give them any notice. You will simply ignore them, or not perceive them anymore. Something always makes a sound in my car. A beep because petrol is low, a beep because there’s a risk of ice, a beep because the EPS is faulty, a beep because the trunk is open, a beep because, … oh I don’t care! The same applies to warnings on packaging, I don’t care if I’m expected to use a non-metal spoon to stir my coffee and I don’t care whether “this side is up”. You just leave me alone.
However, warning-overflow sometimes causes serious damage, as with the Turkish Airliner that crashed at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. Obviously, the crew got fed-up with a warning sound that occurred quite regularly and in the end, they crashed. Warnings, so the conclusion goes, should be administered in a rather tempered way, too much warning will damage your awareness and even make you disregard the warning. Too much warning can seriously damage your health, which means: It’s time to take a measured approach to warnings.
I really can’t stand it anymore, all these people claiming to act in the best interest of ordinary men. Whatever they do, it’s not in their interest, it’s in the interest of ordinary men. Tune in to Five live, Stephen Nolan’s show, and what do you hear: People telling listeners that the reason why they smashed windows and destroyed private property in London was, because they wanted to stand-up for ordinary men who suffer under the Tory government’s austerity regime. It’s always ordinary men, these do-gooders justify their actions with. Implement a new social service, it’s because ordinary men must be helped to get on with their life, their family, their children, their children’s children, you name it! Ordinary men have to understand why politicians do this and that. Ordinary men are claimed by almost any branch of socialists when they demand more equality, more financial support, more tax for rich people, and – interestingly enough: always more public spending.
Doesn’t that strike you odd?
First, do-gooders who stand-up for ordinary men seem to be driven by a rather rare variant of altruism. All they do, is to the good of ordinary men. None of what they do is for their own good. Well, I don’t believe in altruism. I believe that men tries to satisfy his interests. Which leads to the simple conclusion (some kind of Ockham’s razor) that people who smash windows and destroy other people’s property do so, because they want to do so. They have a personal interest in smashing things.
Secondly, do-gooders who want nothing more than to care for ordinary men, may have an interest in these ordinary men, but they have an overriding self-interest that drives their want to bring salvation to ordinary men: they make a living by caring for ordinary men.
Thirdly, what always angers me most is the moral high-ground these do-gooders claim for themselves. And from their elevated point they look down on ordinary men, who they consider being too silly to care for themselves, too frightened to stand-up for themselves and too stupid to voice their own interest.
So, I think it is time for these hypocrites to stand to their interests and tell others what they really want: They want to destroy things, they want to earn a living and they think of themselves as being mentally superior to ordinary men. How can anyone consider himself superior when he hasn’t got the courage to say what really drives him?
We’ve been to a Dubliners’ concert the other night. It was impressive to see the old men perform. 49 years on stage and still they sound amazing. In short, the concert was brilliant.
Especially, Barney McKenna, 71 years of age, played his banjo like a young man with a virtuosity in his fingers that you can’t help admiring.
However, being from Germany although living in England for the past four years, I wondered whether someone like Barney McKenna would be possible in Germany. I mean, would it be possible for him to perform? I think not. First, I’m quite certain that a number of legal restrictions and insurance issues would prevent organizers from letting him access the stage. Secondly, I’m almost as certain that the German Nanny State does prevent someone like Barney McKenna from happening. Sound’s weird, but it isn’t.
Official ideology in Germany has it, that working people have to look forward to their retirement. They have to feel joy, when thinking about retirement and they have to forget all about work, once they crossed the assumed biological border that divides working life from retirement. With retirement come social workers and all the busy people who help you here and there, do this and that for you, because you are old and can’t really care for yourself, at least this is what is expected of you. It is exactly this point, I want to make. Nanny states reward people for doing nothing. For retiring into oblivion for example, for quitting public life and, if at all, turn up in a nursing home for the elderly.
Barney McKenna needs some assistance with walking. I am certain, if he were German, he would have to confront a chorus of voices, telling him that he is too old to be on stage, that his health does suffer, that his ability to perform has declined and so forth. Many people would discourage him, few would encourage him. This is the main feature of a Nanny State. It does discourage people to live-up to their wishes, it tells people not to demand too much and not to strive for a goal that may seem a bit far-fetched. We are all human, the good people would say, and what they mean by that is: be mainstream, fall in line, don’t demand anything from you that is deemed above the ordinary by us and don’t strive for anything special, … don’t live!
The German government stands-up to revolutionize perception and human psychology – by law.
The law that aims to alter the way Germans perceive is called “Gesetz zur Privilegierung von Kinderlärm” a bill to privilege noise made by children. It is quite striking that the law speaks about “noise”. Thus, while it is not to be contested that children do make noise, the law prohibits people from doing something against it, it simply orders them either to stand it or to not hearing it. So if – by any bad luck – you happen to live close to a Kindergarden, you can’t do anything against the noise coming from the Kindergarden. Just imagine, you cannot hear it, or better still if you cannot convince yourself that actually there is no noise, move to another place. By law, the German government declares that though children’s noise is still noise, it is not to be considered harmful any more. Society, the same government declares, owes tolerance to children, and because of that, German citizens have to stand the noise.
This law provides the German government with a powerful tool. For everything that does not fit into what the German government defines as being the correct way of life there is a simple way to handle it: prohibition, prohibition to perceive that is. However, children’s noise is an externality and the problem with externalities is that others do perceive them (that’s why they are called externalities). A government denying its citizens the right to defend themselves against externalities caused by others is either close to becoming a totalitarian government or already crossed the demarcation-line.
Besides, there is not a single word as to why society owes tolerance to children, and why elderly people, working people and all those who do not want to be disturbed by children’s noise do not have the same claim for tolerance. Why don’t parents and wardens in a Kindergarden owe it to society to raise children in the awareness that others do not want to hear their noise and that there are more sensible things to do than just running around and shout like mad?
Because the “Gesetz zur Privilegierung von Kinderlärm” legitimizes noise made by children at the expense of all those who don’t produce externalities for others, it reveals itself exactly as the piece of dictatorship it is meant to be.
UK parliament sits over a display ban for tobacco in tobacco shops. The rationale behind this is clear: smoking is harmful for smokers and passive smokers and though heavily taxed in almost any country it is more profitable to waive the revenue than to provide health care. It is this connection between revenue and health care provision that justifies government’s intervention. Health care costs soar and governments are more and more involved in a feverish battle to find economies. This brings smokers and the different forms of cancer they fall prey to into focus. Why not prevent them from harming themselves? Why not de-normalise their lifestyle? Why not tell them how to behave?
Why not? Because it is an imminent intrusion into individual freedom; because it provides society with a role model of lifestyles not to be followed; and because it reduces not only individual freedom of self-determination, but also individuals’ responsibility for their own life. Do-gooders, however, suppose that you cannot let people live by their own, because they are not up for the task. Need proof? Well, look for example at … correct: smokers! Seems circular reasoning and, indeed it is circular reasoning:
Start by defining a group of people who show a certain harmful behaviour, then declare the harmful behaviour as not only harmful to themselves, but to society as a whole. Engage yourself in the quest of bringing these self-harming people to their senses, by joining a do-gooder’s organisation dedicated to fight the particular harmful behaviour and lobby for politicians support. Because today, most politicians will support almost anything that provides them with an opportunity to appear as benefactors to mankind, this shouldn’t be too difficult. The final step is to justify your own engagement with the topic by pointing to politicians’ approval and subsequent needs for action, because of the behaviour of this group of utterly irresponsible smoking blokes.
However, the entire problem originates of governments’ involvement in health care and the respective need to pay for ailments of any kind. So in order to reduce expenses, governments choose to intervene in individual’s freedom which is not too big a problem given the willingly provided assistance of many do-gooders. However, why is it that the target population are smokers? Why not target parents who burden society with another mouth to feed and environment with another increase of carbon imprint. Or why not address people with dangerous hobbies, cyclists for one or skiers who tend to break a leg or acquire frostbites. Why not target meat eaters, who have been shown in a number of studies to get sick because of their eating meat. The list of possible targets is endless, and so would be the need for government intervention were it not flawed by a certain bias against a particular group, “Zeitgeist” makes the best of all possible target groups.
But do not forget that restriction of individual freedom in this case originates of governments’ involvement in the provision of health care. This “blessing” results in government’s interference and it inevitably will result in that, because scarce resources will always have people or groups of people fighting for them. Wouldn’t it be better to transfer responsibility for one’s own health and the costs associated with individuals’ neglect of health issues back to where it belongs, back to the individual?