Free Markets, Free People

Nannyism – the dangerous trend

One of the points of Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” is that if some form of totalitarianism ever establishes itself here, it will have a happy, smiley face and all be done in the name of what is “good for us”. And it will also be a sort of creeping totalitarianism – not done in one fell swoop as in a revolution, but in bits and pieces with the best of intentions. Call it “Nannyism” if you’re uncomfortable with fascism or totalitarianism. But I find it difficult to describe the following as anything but smiley-faced totalitarianism:

“No owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food for consumption by customers of such restaurant, including food prepared to be consumed on the premises of such restaurant or off of such premises,” the bill, A. 10129 , states in part.

The legislation, which Assemblyman Felix Ortiz , D-Brooklyn, introduced on March 5, would fine restaurants $1,000 for each violation.

The first thing some are going to say is “well, this hasn’t a chance to pass”. That may be so, but it bespeaks a mindset that exists and is becoming more and more prevalent. The pending health care bill is another manifestation of this mentality which essentially says it is the job of government to ensure a certain style and quality of life which is best for you – whether you agree or not.

The problem of course is offering legislation like this isn’t that unusual. Trans fats. Soda taxes, etc. The nannies are constantly trying to decide for you what is best for you. Check out this story. Certainly the intent of the story isn’t to dictate what you can or can’t eat. But it takes a time when most people relax the rules a little and enjoy themselves and essentially tries to guilt them into “eating healthy”. It’s one of the more benign forms of nannyism, but it is still aimed at altering behavior based on the belief that they know better.

Of course the distinct possibility exists that if health care reform legislation passes and government takes control of the industry through direct or indirect means, such legislation won’t be confined to state legislatures. Already, with smiley faces, soda and snack machines are being taken out of schools for the ostensible reason “fighting childhood obesity” as if those particular machines are the reason children are fat and taking them out will somehow change a child’s eating habits outside of school and slim them up. Government controls the schools, so government dictates what will be available and what children should eat – not the parents.  As should be obvious, the government already believes you’re a failure – you have fat kids, don’t you?!

Given that precedent, why does anyone doubt that government wouldn’t extend such control to other areas it “pays” for (it pays for nothing, since it has no money – it is in the transfer business) with your tax dollars? Why wouldn’t Congress, on the advice of say the AMA (or some government research, etc), issue strict guidelines concerning salt in food? Sugar in food? Fatty content in food? Etc.?  Isn’t that something the FDA could end up doing?  Of course it is.  Look at what the EPA is trying to do now with “greenhouse gasses”.

If you buy into the government’s claim it can cut health care costs, and you give them the go ahead for passing legislation which will ostensibly do that, where do you draw the line on what is an isn’t unacceptable in pursuing those cost reductions? You don’t. By accepting their premise you give government the carte blanch authority to decide what is necessary to do what it says it can do. You’ve turned it over to them. If they decide that preventive care is the key, and critical to preventive care is healthy eating, what leg have you to stand on you claim they’ve gone too far and what you eat is none of their business? When the AMA says Americans need to cut their salt consumption and government acts on that, how do you say “none of your business?” When the First Lady claims sugary drinks should be taxed because they lead to unhealthy children and Congress agrees, what possible argument, given the fact you’ve abrogated your own personal responsibility to take care of yourself and your family and handed it over to government, can you make against that?

What seems to be almost laughable “nuisance” legislation right now is just a taste (no pun intended) of what will become routine legislation should this health care debacle pass. You have some marginal control over the way you live now. You still retain at least a modicum of control over your life. You still have the freedom to decide, at least for the moment, what you will or won’t eat. It is very possible that at some point in the near future, you could lose that freedom too.

Freedom means the freedom to fail, to eat what isn’t deemed healthy, to do as you please as long as you don’t violate the rights of others. Freedom isn’t always pretty and others may think you’re a raving dumb-ass for doing what you do to yourself. But freedom deems that to be your choice, again with the caveat you’re not violating the rights of others.

What we’re seeing with this creeping nannyism, this smiley-faced totalitarianism, is a change in philosophy driven by increasing government intrusion which in turn justifies even more intrusion. It is a paradigm shift of epic proportions from the founding principles of this country.  Freedom is a dying concept as we see more and more people buying into the preference that others should make decisions for them. They’re become increasingly comfortable with the control exercised over their lives by government. It’s “easier”. It’s “less of a hassle”. They don’t have to “worry about it”, whatever the specific “it” is.

But that sort of a life has a price that most don’t seem to understand – and that price is the pure essence of freedom: the ability to make choices. Salt bans, drink taxes, etc – all with the smiley-faced intention of doing what others believe is best for you and in every case, limiting or abolishing your freedom to choose.

Freedom isn’t always lost in big chunks like war or revolution. Sometimes it is lost a piece at a time. One of the things I think the Tea Party movement recognizes and is motivated by is this dawning realization that this creeping nannyism, the smiley-faced totalitarianism of “good intentions” forced on all, is very close to succeeding, or, if not fully succeeding, at least setting itself up for the final push in the near future. The convergence of the financial meltdown and the ambitious leftist agenda of this president served as a wake up call.  People realized that what was creeping nannyism has transitioned into nannyism at a full gallop. As it turns out, it may be the best thing that ever happened to this country – if its people successful in turning the nannyism back.

If not, then expect more things like salt bans to show up at much higher levels than state assemblies. And when you’re buying your salt on the black market from your local pusher, keep an eye out for “the salt police”. You wouldn’t want your government health care jeopardized by a salt abuse conviction, would you?



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8 Responses to Nannyism – the dangerous trend

  • What makes this even tastier (pardon the pun!) is that the idiot in question not only admits that he eats and plans to continue to eat salty food, but that HE DID NO RESEARCH AT ALL BEFORE WRITING HIS BILL.  Nada.  Zip.

    The really sad thing is that this fool will probably be reelected until he decides to retire… or until his dimwitted constituents elect him to the Congress.  Hell, with his mental abilities and statist attitude, he’d make a likely democrat presidential candidate

    • Next up … outlawing speaking with an accent.

    • Yeah, it seems as if he really didn’t understand the effect it would have on food preparation.  Bear in mind that this proposed law does not restrict people from adding salt to food after the fact, which no doubt pleases Mayor Bloomberg.  A story some months back pointed out that he has a penchant for using lots of salt on his meals.

      • He salts his pizza. He salts his saltine crackers. He uses so much salt on popcorn other people can’t eat it. But he knows what is best for you even if science is still dubious about the health care risk of salt .

  • My grandmother believed that pepper was bad for you.  She ate all the salt she wanted, but no pepper.
    I always believed that she was told that one of these two condiments was bad for her, and she decided that she would rather go without pepper than salt, so she only manged to live to 93.

  • What’s interesting about “nannyism” is the way in which our culture wants to avoid any risk.  If nine people get sick from peanut butter, rather than praise how almost all our peanut butter is safe, there is shock that this wasn’t caught.   I recall the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and the amount of both freedom and risk their family had.   The more stuff we acquire and the more comfortable our lifestyles, the more adverse we are (as a culture) to risk.   That is key to how we’ve accepted extensive limits on freedom.
    Of course, totalitarianism won’t come just from “what’s good for us” (I agree with much of what you write on that), but also from advertisers and others whose propaganda forms our world view.   (See the Benjamin Barber book Consumed).   It is a critique of capitalism, and how capitalism brings totalizing aspects to society, yet Barber points out that modern capitalism has begun to work against what we find best in markets.   Rather than fair competition, they want control and an unfair advantage, often using their close partnership with government to get it.   Republicans defend “big business” because they praise “free markets,” and Democrats defend government because they support “helping average folk.”   The two are really in bed together far more than most on either side realize it.   Freedom is not the primary value of either.

    • There is nothing new about that. Adam Smith himself stated that no two or more businessmen gather together but that they attempt to collude.  Businessmen will try to use the power of government to squash their competition. The left wing impulse is therefore to hamstring business.
      But my impulse it to therefore remove the ability of goverment to get involved in the market in the first place.  You are correct in your first paragraph and although the rest of us often disagree with you, at least you are someone who is left of center who sees the danger of too much government control over all aspects of our lives.
      We certainly cannot remove all risk from life, but we might succeed in removing all liberty and all the joy of life.  I see the impulse for control of the do-gooders, and nanny staters as no different except in degree from the Taliban and their attempts to remove all joy from Afgahni society when they were in control.
      It is the same impulse, the impulse that you know what is better for the people than they do.