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A wise observation from across the pond

I missed this sharp and wise article by US columnist Jonah Goldberg a few days ago – but I had the excellent excuse of being on holiday – but his piece, which nicely sums up what is happening in Britain from a US perspective, demonstrates how some Americans are waking up to what a nannied country Britain now is. Of course, north American readers of this blog have been aware of this progressive infantilisation of the UK adult public for some time.

The question that keeps coming up, and which makes an appearance in Jonah’s article, is exactly when will the conveyor belt of nanny-state interference in our liberties stop? When, exactly, does the excrement hit the fan? Just how bullied do we have to be before something snaps?

I am still none the wiser as to whether we really know the answer to those questions.

15 comments to A wise observation from across the pond

  • Brad

    He writes as if the US is still some sort of frontier country filled with intrepid men branding cattle on the prairie. Maybe it’s because I live in Wisconsin, a State notorious for its Progressivism (spawning both the Republican Party, when it was the progressive of the two major parties, and the Progressive Party proper, which spun off from the Republicans). A state now on the cusp of having a statewide banning of cigarettes, a state that forces children into car seats until the ripe age of 8, a state that, until recently had the second highest tax structure in the land – many in the form of sin taxes.

    Madison, the State Capitol, is filled with all sorts of Do Gooders (form both sides of the aisle). But I suspect it’s not the only State to be such. So in all, I think Mr. Goldberg need not look over the pond for Nannyism. We have plenty of our own to worry about. Granted the network of cameras may not be as advanced as in Britain, but much of the rest of the brow beating and the use of our very own tax dollars, not to protect life and property, but to lecture us on how to raise kids, and what to smoke, and how much to drink, and knocking anything with transfats out of our hands.

    I think it’s simply another example of just how used to the invasion of government into our lives one can get. But then again, Goldberg is not a libertarian, and in fact has written screeds against libertarians on occassion. I suspect he has his own laundry list of things he wants people to do differently and he’s glad that trusty old government is there when he needs it.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Brad, I don’t think Goldberg is under illusions about how bad some of the nannying is getting in the US, in places such as California, for example (I wrote about this after a trip to the west coast a while ago).

  • Sunfish

    The nannies want you to be dependent. Don’t indulge them.

    Quoth Cactus Ed: Bake your own bread, brew your own beer, and urinate off the front porch whenever you bloody well feel like it.

    I can post the recipes for the pale ale and the challah that made up my most-recent meal, if you think it would help.

    Seriously, though: I think people who do stuff like that, or make their own soap or candles or cut their own firewood or grow their own tobacco and vegetables make the nannies nervous, even more so than the gun culture. After all, I ruined my back the other day splitting a crapload of firewood, but now, if the power and gas co-op can’t keep my furnace running this winter, I won’t miss much. Other than the alarm clock, and what a shame that would be. If I can heat my house without their help, or have tomatoes without having them shipped here by someone else (and therefore get better tomatoes), then I don’t need as much outside “help” in my life. And if I don’t need help, then what will the poor “helpers” do with themselves?

    (Personally, I wish upon at least a few of them a disastrous accident in the course of solitary autoerotic asphyxiation, but I’m cranky today.

  • But then again, Goldberg is not a libertarian, and in fact has written screeds against libertarians on occassion.

    I know, I have exchanged e-mails with the man on that subject and written a few rather unkind bashing articles too.

    But perhaps he is finally seeing the light and realised he has been feeding the beast he thought he was fighting and so is moving away from his anti-intellectual right-statist world view :-)

  • Personally, I wish upon at least a few of them a disastrous accident in the course of solitary autoerotic asphyxiation, but I’m cranky today.

    LOL! That is going to have me chuckling for the rest of the day!

  • Liam H

    As a Brit, who drinks, I think Jonah has it spot on. This damp and sad little Island is capable of inducing misery in the happiest of souls. What with: many Brits working in places spookily like the one in “The Office”; paying tax like; getting hassled for global warming; being told that radical Islam is not a threat; and generally being pushed around and told what and how to think around by people who seems to have come out of the Harriet Harman and Hazel Blears mould, it’s no wonder we all get blasted as often as we can.

  • Sam Duncan

    … exactly when will the conveyor belt of nanny-state interference in our liberties stop? When, exactly, does the excrement hit the fan?

    Whenever I ponder that question, I always think of I’m All Right, Jack. The Boultings were able to identify a what was wrong with Britain very clearly in 1959 – something that, from what I hear from my parents’ generation, was widely understood – yet it was another 20 years before anyone made a serious attempt to do anything about it.

    I’m not sure we’ve reached 1959, let alone 1979, with this yet.

  • Robert

    When will it hit the fan?
    About thirty seconds after some swivel eyed mullah and his pack of ravenning ‘slim followers try to shut down a pub in Millwall or West Ham.
    May the Glorious Day not be long delayed.

  • Stephanie

    The question that keeps coming up, and which makes an appearance in Jonah’s article, is exactly when will the conveyor belt of nanny-state interference in our liberties stop? When, exactly, does the excrement hit the fan? Just how bullied do we have to be before something snaps?

    Maybe I’m overly pessimistic, but I don’t know if there is a snapping point, if the nannying is incremental enough. People get used to this stuff and think of it is as normal (and desirable!), and then when the next regulation comes along, well, it’s just one more little law, all for our own good…

  • Paul Marks

    For all there many (very many) faults, most Republicans in most States tend to want lower taxes and tend to be against things like smoking bans (at least if we are talking about tobacco).

    Of course there are “liberal” (i.e. statist) Republicans, but even in California the typical Republican will admire Mclintock (spelling alert – I mean the “Jeffersonian Republican” who had a habit of almost winning various State offices, such as State Comptroller, only to be defeated by leftists who outspent him ten to one) rather more than “Arnie”.

    Sure the Repbulican party was once the party of the left (and not just in Wisconsin), but in most of the country that has not been true since the Warren Harding campaign of 1920 (perhaps the real reason the establishment historians hate Warren Harding was that he campaigned on cutting government spending and taxes – and, when elected, did just that).

    At the infamous Convention of 1896 the Democrats betrayed their small government traditions, but they did not go over to being really a big government party till the 1930’s (when President Wilson’s henchman F.D.R. gained control). It is true that the Republicans are not really like the 19th century Democrats – but they (or a lot of them in many States) can be pushed in a smaller government direction.

    Even George Walker Bush (of “no child left behind”, and the Medicare extention) is not all bad (although he is mostly bad) – he is in favour of lower tax rates, and is against the persecution of religious organizations and individuals by local, State and Federal government (there is an unholy war going on against Christians and others on various “discrimination” grounds, with the [wildly misnamed] American Civil Liberties Union [A.C.L.U.] and other socialist organizations using various levels of government and the courts as their tools).

    But as for Johnathan’s question – no Britain has very little chance at all of rolling back (or even stopping) the “nanny state” tide.

    In Great Britain (unlike the United States) political parties are under central control (I say Great Britain rather than the United Kingdom – because in Ulster things are a bit different). And the centre of the Conservative party is rotten to the core.

    Take the speech by the leader of the Conservative party (Mr David Cameron) today.

    This speech was talked up by the “Daily Telegraph” (the most important conservative newspaper here) as a great pro freedom speech – a break from David Cameron’s “heir of Blair” support for statism in the past.

    However, in the speech Mr Cameron boasted of having taken the Conservative party back to the “middle ground” and claimed “this is where the Conservative party has always been when it has won in the past”.

    The latter claim was a lie. The Conservative party has often won elections when it has either reduced the size of government or has promised to do so.

    For example, the elections of 1951 (“Set the People Free”), 1955 (tax cuts and deregulation had taken place), 1959 (ditto), 1970 (it is often forgotten that Mr Heath won on a free market platform), 1979, 1983 (although government was not reduced between 1979 and 1983, indeed in greatly expanded, there were still promises of reducing statism), 1987 (cuts in the size of government and promises of more of the same) and even 1992 (we will return to be a tax cutting party, we will continue to denationalize industry……).

    Indeed I can think of no election since World War II where the Conservative party has been on the centre ground (i.e. has neither delivered nor promised any reduction of the size of the state) and won.

    “You are getting hung up on policy Paul – Mr Cameron does not mean what you think he means when he used the words centre ground, look at actual policy”.

    O.K. today I looked at an e.mail sent to me in my capacity as a Conservative party council member in Kettering.

    It was the report on local government prepared by Lord Heseltine (spelling?)

    Leaving aside the fact that no decent leader of the Conservative party would have entrusted Lord Heseltine with writing a report (on this or any other matter), as Lord Heseltine is a traitor who has worked against this country for his masters in the E.U. for many years (for example he was deeply involved the coup against Lady Thatcher in 1990 – standing for election as party leader against a serving elected Prime Minister – Mrs T. won the vote, but the rule book was used to show that the lady had not won by “enough” votes and then……), let us look at the policy in the report.

    One policy was that the taxpayers money given to various unelected agencies (such as the absurd “regional” governments) should be given to elected local government. This is fair enough – although a conservative policy would be to not take this money from the taxpayers in the first place.

    However, the report also says that there should be freedom to borrow by local govenment.

    This is one “freedom” that all pro freedom should be against.

    If local politicians can borrow they will do so – in order to try and buy popularity (at the expence of the future).

    Local government (and national government) is not a business – and government spending is not investment.

  • Paul Marks

    “Your comments are too long Paul, give us a short version”.

    O.K. – the Repubilcan party (for all its faults) is not totally controlled from the centre, so there is hope (if only a little hope) of reforming it. Working in it to try and roll back government at local, State and Federal levels.

    The British Conservative party is controlled from the centre (just as local government is largely conrolled by national government – a local council that wanted to roll back statism could not really do so, the job of a local council is to work on such things as “equality policy” to end the “lottery of where you live having an effect on your life” not to decide whether there should be such policies) and the leadership is very bad indeed.

    Nor is there a large scale alternative to the Conservative party. For example, the U.K.I.P. (or Independence Party) has little money and few members – someone who stood for U.K.I.P. for Kettering Council (let alone for the seat in Parliament) would have no hope of victory.

    Conclusion – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is doomed.

  • Missing the point about bullying.
    ie, that is actually what it is.
    Every time some bastard invokes the ‘public good’, they are saying what Lillian said to Hank(Rearden) at the end of Atlas Shrugged:
    “I did what I did because I love you.”
    These creatures are not misguided.
    They are fully realised agents of evil.

  • Bernie

    When will it end? I don’t know but I’m sure that time will be hastened by things like the smoking ban starting in less than two weeks.

  • It’s not like either side of the pond has a patent on the nanny factor. As long as we stay on it the weasels among us will be eradicated by their own stupidity.

  • MarkE

    When will it end? Will it end?

    I’m not convinced enough of the British people want it to end. I spend some time on the BBC’s Have Your Say (I think of it as misssionary work), and find it profoundly depressing how many people will post “I approve of this restriction in my freedom because I would rather a bored civil servent made bad decisions for me than risk making a wrong decision for myself”. These are not sarcastic posts; they actually mean it! The sort of person who thinks that and admits it publically is not likely to be manning the barricades to defend their own (and our) freedoms.