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A Land Fit for Busybodies

It is now 2004 and may I take this opportunity of wishing all Samizdata readers a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

As for me, I have resolved that I will be in the same bad mood this year that I was in last year. It makes perfect sense. My enemies don’t change their ways, so why should I change mine?

It is time to stand up for the “nanny state” – for Jowell and Hodge and, in other areas, Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman. And also, in general, for the state’s right and duty to involve itself in questions of diet, health, family budgets and good parenting.

So it turns out that all the leftie carping about ‘big food’ in 2003 wasn’t a joke after all. They really mean it. I predict, before the end of 2004, a ‘burger tax’.

The crucial point which critics of the nanny state fail to mention is that individuals and families don’t stand alone. None of us lives in a neutral social space, unharassed, and free to make wise long-term choices. Whatever the philosophical ideal, in the real world we are bombarded by corporate messages cajoling us and our children to consume and borrow. We are inhabitants of the more, now, spend-it, eat-it society, which – let us not forget – boosts the profits of the multinationals.

We are also inhabitants of ban it, tax it, regulate it society which – let us not forget – boosts the profits of the political classes.

Health-hectoring is now being added to enviromentalism and ‘anti-racism’ as a legitimating ideology of the ruling class. Another self-sustaining justification for their power, wealth and status. Nothing new about that of course, only now they are prepared to put the whole process on public display before nailing it into place.

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18 comments to A Land Fit for Busybodies

  • Amen to that. We don’t need any resolutions–because we will end up breaking all of them, just like the government.

  • John Thacker

    Still, it’s nice to see that at least a large swath of the British public is smarter than this. Listeners to the Today programme rejected the nanny state bills to instead vote as their favorite idea for a new bill a bill to authorise the use of deadly force to defend one’s home against intruders.

  • Doug Collins

    So the Guardian author is filled with concern for the poor who, apparently from what she writes, not only lack the financial resources of the better off, but also lack their intelligence. How patronizing. They have to buy salt and sugar laced processed food because they can’t afford the ‘mounds of fresh fruit’ that the ‘Rich’ can lavish on their whelps. This may be an American idiosyncracy (although I doubt it) but unprocessed food is generally cheaper than processed food. It just takes more trouble to prepare, which is why people -rich and poor- tend not to buy it.

    But the innocent, gullible, not-very-bright Salt of the Earth must be protected from the Evil Multi-Nationals. (Perhaps salty food sold by a local company would be more healthful?) And the government stands ready.

    I have an idea. Since the rich don’t need government nannies, (They can afford to hire young Bratislavian women according to Comrade Ashley), why not exempt them from this wonderful government protection. After all, if they are not prevented from stuffing their already bloated plutocratic faces with yet more salt, sugar and fat, they should die sooner and thus spend fewer years grinding their heels in the faces of the poor. In fact, why not exempt anyone who is not a good socialist from all the wonderful government regulations. Such pearls should be reserved only for the enlightened Proletariat who can appreciate them properly. And possibly any really fundementalist Islamics who steadfastly refuse to assimilate.

  • ernest young

    It is time to stand up for the “nanny state” – for Jowell and Hodge and, in other areas, Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman. And also, in general, for the state’s right and duty to involve itself in questions of diet, health, family budgets and good parenting

    So it is now the state’s right and duty to interfere with personal decisions, are we now considered as so much cattle, that we have to be ‘husbanded’. It seems that it isn’t only the critics from the ‘right’, who consider the general populace to be ‘bovine’ in demeanor.

    But this is only half the story. Affluent families have more freedom to deal with the consequences. They buy the fresh food, which isn’t loaded with sugar and salt. They buy mounds of expensive fruit for their children

    So fresh food and fruit are now so expensive that the ‘poor’, (is that a synonym for lazy?), can’t afford to buy it. It never used to be, before the EU raised it’s ugly head and interfered in our indigenous agriculture industry. The ‘poor’ folks liking for fast and convenience foods is born out of an innate dislike of the effort involved in preparing the basic ingredients for a decent meal. Perhaps if they didn’t waste do much on burgers etc. they may be able to afford some of that good fruit – French Golden Delicious excepted.

    Who really thinks that a centre-left government should stand aside and do nothing? The whole point of progressive politics is to stand with the most vulnerable people

    Maybe, if they (Labour) had not interfered so disastrously in the education system during the past thirty years, we might not have so many dimwits who cannot even look after themselves or their families, and therefore need the tender ministrations of the ‘nanny’ state.

    Perhaps the whole sham altruistic nonsense put out by the Left, is just a ploy to make more people dependent on the State, thus ensuring the security of tenure for our ‘caring’ elite?

    Looked at in a detached, dispassionate, manner, the whole Welfare system, appears to be no more than one gigantic Ponzi scheme, foisted on the public by dullard bureacrats and failed intellectuals, such as the likes of Jackie Ashley

  • Verity

    “Health hectoring” – a phrase that has legs. Excellent!

    And it is indeed the CAP which has made food in Europe/Britain so outrageously expensive. In the US, I can buy a dozen oranges for around $1.50 (even if I lived, as Robert Clayton does, in Wisconsin and they had to be trucked from FL). In France, I pay one euro ($1.25) for one apple or one pear. Maybe this is why the “poor” buy packaged snacks instead. An apple each for three children’s lunchboxes @ 71P is £2.10. Michael Howard needs to make an issue of the CAP. So many issues, so little time.

    And yes, per Ernest Young, of course this is intended to make the citizenry ever more dependent on a controlling, deeply anti-democratic government heady by head prefect bossy-britches Tony Blair, ably assisted by resdistributor in chief Gordon Brown and their ghastly Stepford Wives Harriet Harman, Tessa Jowell and Patricias Hodges and Hewitt – a quartet of 10th raters who, I suspect, would never find employment in the private sector.

    But every new intrusion into private lives hands Michael Howard & Co more hand grenades, so keep up the jolly good work, ladies! I suggest high heels next. Some orthosurgeons suggest we are throwing our backs out. Surely this warrants regulation mandating the maximum number of centimetres (NuLab) for ladies’ heels?

  • Johnathan

    Satire is impossible with these folk. They actually are proud of their authortarianism and superiority to the broad masses. Stuff like this reminds us – as if we ever needed reminding – of how far Labour has moved from its older, more working class roots. Can you imagine old-style Labour trade unionists putting up with such scolds?

    My NY resolution – to mock these bastards at all suitable occasions.

  • Verity

    Jonathan – “My NY resolution – to mock these bastards at all suitable occasions.”

    Why limit yourself?

  • Dave

    This may be an American idiosyncracy (although I doubt it) but unprocessed food is generally cheaper than processed food.

    My experience of living in California was that this is not the case.

    Fresh food was signficantly more expensive than its processed counterparts and, interestingly, more expensives than my local Waitrose where I lived in the UK.

    I can’t actually believe people doubt that prepared processed foods could be anything other than cheaper than the fresh stuff. Just looking at the shear economics involved. Blindness based on rhetoric works both ways guys!

  • ernest young


    Good to see that you can still come up with the exception that proves the rule.

    Supermarket fresh produce can be more expensive than pre-packed, because it is usually purchased from small farms and in small quantities, and more importantly, has to be ‘perfect’ in every way.

    If you shop elsewhere, such as in farmers markets, or in local shops, the items are usually cheaper but may not be ‘perfect’. Shop at any top-line supermarket, and you will pay top price for any item that is not directly in competition with any neighbouring supermarket.

    Chances are that the small local shops, will not want product packed and preserved in the same way that supermarkets require, and will therefore items will be cheaper to the customer.

    Any shopping savvy buyer would know this, I’m surprised that you don’t.

    Everything that supermarkets sell, falls into the ‘convenience food category. Supermarkets are convenience stores….designed for ‘quick’ shopping.

    As the folk we are talking about have a shortage of money, but plenty of time, I would have thought that supermarkets would be the last place that they would shop. But then, of course, it wouldn’t be so convenient for them, would it? they might have to select the produce they buy, instead of blindly picking up the topmost packet, the poor dears may actually have to make a decision for themselves.

  • Dave


    If you shop elsewhere, such as in farmers markets, or in local shops, the items are usually cheaper but may not be ‘perfect’.

    The problem, at least in the UK and in my experience where I lived in CA, is that there were no local shops nor farmers markets. What there are often are low cost supermarkets in local areas – Netto, Aldi and Iceland spring to mind.

    Where I live, which is in the middle of a rural area there is one farmers market on a Saturday morning – I bought my turkey for Christmas there and very nice it was too. Its not entirely practical as a regular shopping experience because its only for 4 hours once a week. There are _no_ alternatives within 15 miles to where I live other than 5 supermarkets. Where I live is hardly remarkable and it is certainly the case in poor inner city areas.

    I personally think there is a hole in the market here, but having discussed it with people in the business at the moment, it doesn’t look a particularly lucrative one.

    There have been some noises, mostly at a local level, about setting up fresh produce markets in areas where they could benefit, but I don’t think its got beyond the pilot phase.

  • Doug Collins

    “Blindness based on rhetoric works both ways guys!

    Actually, my statement that prepared food is more expensive than fresh food was based on several intermittent years as an underemployed independent geologist. One of the ways we eked out our income was by buying fresh produce only when it was in season and by purchasing staples such as beans and wheat in large lots (10 lbs or more) and by buying whole chickens and tougher cheaper cuts of beef. They had to be put in jars or ground or cut up respectively when we got them home. Then, when we wanted to eat them, they had to be cooked for a while before they were edible.

    There was little convenience, but we had time in abundance. The cost was well under half of that for a comparable preprepared diet. Protein content was high and fats and simple carbohydrates were low. We were probably more healthy then than now, and fresh bread tasted great. We originally did this in central Houston, not far from Neiman-Marcus and various epicurian grocery stores (which we obviously didn’t patronize).

    I qualified my original comment by saying that I didn’t know if the American situation is different from the European one. I have heard that meat is much more expensive in Europe, so that may be a consideration. Protein is the most expensive part of any diet, here or there. Beans, lentils and even soybeans, if you are the experimental type, should be available anywhere as a source of protein.

    I don’t see any excuse for an intelligent person anywhere in the West not being able to feed himself reasonably. One can live without strawberries in November. What is lacking is not cheap food but knowledge and perhaps some flexibility and self discipline. If you are mentally lazy, then the State, as always, stands ready to “help” you.
    I find it interesting that providing useful information, the one truly helpful thing that government could do, is the one thing it doesn’t do. That tells you what the real agenda is.

  • Dave

    Meat is more expensive but again, I think the point made is wrong.

    There was little convenience, but we had time in abundance.

    Many poor people also work, I’m interested in your suggestions if you do not have time in abundance.

    But you make an apt point, I don’t see any excuse for an intelligent person anywhere in the West not being able to feed himself reasonably. … do you assume that everybody is intelligence and able?

    I used to employ people to work production jobs in factories. That was not a sane nor sensible starting point and many of these people would end up eating the pizza’s they had just spent 12 hours making.

  • mrs s

    poor people and fruit = every schoolchild gets a piece of (previously compulsorily peelable by govt. decree due to pesticide residue now magically FINE since they decided kiddiwinks should be fed it and teachers could not be expected to peel it for them) fruit every day – I see a large bowl of it near the butty box storage in my kids’ school – and it isn’t only now that the nagging has started – they attend a Healthy Schools initiative school, and consequently have the fear of god and chicken nuggets put into them on a regular basis despite eating a balanced diet at home.

  • For those that care, Yahoo (Reuters) reports that the nanny state is alive and well in the US. A couple have been arrested for leaving their baby asleep in the car for 5 minutres while they took their other children to a shopping mall toilet.

  • Doug Collins

    If you do not have time in abundance, the large lots of food are split up on the weekend (instead of spending all one’s time before the television), and you do your own prepreparation. Convenience is a good thing. You just don’t pay someone else to provide it to you. You weren’t making your employees work seven days a week were you?

    And are you saying that you only paid them the price of a pizza for 12 hours work? Where was the plant? Somalia?

    Poor people tend to remain poor because they make poor choices: TV over food preparation for example. As Robert Heinlein once said “Ignorance is its own reward”. If the Nanny state limited itself to merely offering information, I would have more trust in its “concern”. It would then be truly working to decrease ignorance. Instead it is attempting to dictate. That indicates a different aim altogether.

  • Susan

    I’d like to know where “Dave” lives in California to be faced with such expensive produce, which he claims is is even more expensive than produce from the UK. I’m a native Californian and I definitely know you can buy 10 pounds of oranges, or five pounds of bananas, for $3 in my local supermarket, and this is the way it has been for a long, long time. Fresh veggies are even cheaper — a whole bag of fresh green beans for $1. Produce in California is so cheap that people in my neighborhood, who have beautiful fruit trees in their gardens. often prefer to buy it from the stores than pick it up off their own lawns.

    Such utter pish and tosh from the socialist apologists. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.

  • Dave

    Susan. Redwood Shores, Redwood City CA.

    My weekly shopping bill at the Waitrose in Surbiton (Waitrose is a high end supermarket a bit like Molly Stones) was around £70, the equivalent shop in Nob Hill Stores on Redwood Shores was £100.

    Oranges were cheap. Apples about the same. Lettace and other stuff more.

  • Dave

    Oh, and something simple like a Tin of Tomato for a fresh Italian Sauce was about $1.30 compared to $0.50 in the UK.


    I’m not sure what you are claiming, but why should people use their leisure time to prepare food when the convenience food doesn’t require any? For your information the Pizza plant was in Lancashire, most people worked a 6 day week at the time and were paid £3.75 an hour. They’d be able to take home pizza’s at the end of a shift though.

    Personally I think the state shouldn’t be telling people what to eat, but it should be making as wide a range of information as possible available and making it easier for people to get access to real food.