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Shush, don’t mention the elephant!

The welfare state is the engine of so many of the problems that the people who run this country complain about you would think its inherent problems would at least be a topic of discussion by the political class. But no. Yet a culture of entitlement without responsibility is not just a consequence of the welfare state, it is pretty much the objective of the welfare state. As a result it seems odd that the political class who presided over the growth of the all encompassing nanny state should decry the fact that people do not take responsibility for their health or behaviour when the very system they created is designed to prevent people paying directly for the health consequences of their life styles.

Yet because the welfare state is sacrosanct, it is not permitted to even suggest that it is the system itself that has produced the overweight chav generation that seems to irk the Islington set and their Tory imitators so much.

Blair said the government was banning the sale of junk food and fizzy drinks from vending machines in schools. He said if voluntary moves to limit advertising of junk food to children had not worked by 2007, new laws would be introduced. The government was also encouraging supermarket chains to adopt a single-system of labelling to identify healthy options.

“It will be much better if the industry comes together voluntarily around this scheme but once again, we are prepared to act if the voluntary system does not work”

And so if the threat of force does not work, yet more regulations will follow. Sure, that is it, we need more regulations. Yet all this dances around the issue that people buy what they want not because the labelling says this or that, but because they like it and there is no clear economic motivation to worry all too much about long term medical consequences when the NHS takes care of all that stuff. It is almost as if the Tories, LibDems and Labour are shouting at each other across the floor of Parliament, all pretending not to notice the large and very hungry elephant standing in their midst who is crapping all over the statist paradise that we would all live in if only we had a few more regulations.

22 comments to Shush, don’t mention the elephant!

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    This obesity crap is a load of horseshit. The BMI was created to give a pseudoscientific rationale for telling people what to eat (i.e. to control another, very basic, aspect of their lives). The examples of how stupid and innacurate the BMI is are legion, but it continues to be used as a “scientific” basis for more state control.

    What also disturbs me is how many seemingly rational people jump on the obesity epidemic bandwagon. It probably just goes to show how extensive fat-ophobia truly is.

    My BMI is 27, at 6 feet tall and 200 lbs–but with no fat on me, just muscle, and that’s by genetics, not weightlifting. When the fat police come a-knockin’, will I be forced to drop to 180 lbs to get my BMI under 25? To lose 20 pounds of muscle that are there naturally? Would that be healthy? Of course not.

    Aaaarghh. All nanny statism pisses me off, but the svelte police really push my buttons for some reason. Maybe it’s because while many of the other nanny state initiatives (such as second-hand smoke) are just as based on bullshit, they at least seem to make a sort of common sense–smoke can make you feel kind of crappy, ergo it is bad for you. OK. No real evidence for that, but I can see people supporting it. But obesity–it’s a true case of “I will tell you what to do with you body, though there is no conceivable way this can adversely affect me.” True body fascism.

  • Tuscan Tony

    But without the welfare state in its many manifestations and guises, there’d be precious little for any politico or civil “servant” to do – as presumably they can’t be all overseeing John Reid or helping him in turn carry out his vital armed forces oversight work. Scarcely surprising that the subject is not one for discussion or debate in the self-preservation society of polticians. Let’s remember that England is now a country where asylum seekers are apparently not booted off the premises any more by those who we pay to do so, but actually given a fake story and set up for life here by the Immigration Dept of the Home Office (for cash payment, natch). I’d be interested to see the first MSM journo who breaks cover and makes a connection with the said immigration official’s country of birth. Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

  • Regulation regulation.

    What amazes me is how any self-respecting headmaster would want to allow in vending machines full of mood-altering substances such as sugary, coloured drinks. It amazes me how the governors allow it or that the parents do not complain. It should not need legislation at all but just common sense on the ground.

    But that is exactly the point being made here. A population systematically educated not to think critically, objectively or rationally and to abdicate responsibility at every opportunity.

    When we created the Welfare State the population were allowed to swap their responsibilities for rights.

    Rights without responsibilities? It does not take a degree in Social Anthropology to know where that would take us…

  • MarkE

    I remember reading a lot of articles, both print and internet, about two years ago suggesting that obesity, as measured by BMI was no more than a guide. The general concusion was that it was very possible to be perfectly fit and healthy with a BMI over 25 (or any other arbitrary hurdle). The present Mrs MarkE walks three miles to work, spends 8 hours on her feet and walks back home (eyesight too poor for driving, no public transport in David Cameron’s constituency), with a BMI of 26. So how unfit is she? I’m sure the same applies to Alfred E Neuman, and many others.

    BMI is a focus because it is easily measured, not because it is meaningful, like most regulation.

  • MarkE posts, quite wisely:

    BMI is a focus because it is easily measured, not because it is meaningful, like most regulation.

    Mmmm. It’s facsinating that those who least understand numbers, revere them most as magic tokens of credibility.

    [And those that do understand them view them as no more than somewhat useful knowledge (usually hard won), and their means of manipulation as honest tools of work.]

    Best regards

  • guy herbert


    Rights without responsibilities?

    That just sounds like Blair.

    My right implies a duty in others, my liberty, merely that they do not interfere. I am responsible for nothing but my own actions.

  • Paul Marks

    Guy is correct.

    Even if I refuse to help someone else who is being attacked that does not give other people the right to attack me.

    Justice is not a “cover all” term for all virtues. It is only one virtue – not aggressing against the bodies or goods of other folk.

    There are many other virtues (that make up a good man) – for example to go to the aid of someone who was being attacked (without hope of payment) I would need to have both the virtue of charity (helping others without hope of payment) and the virtue of courage (facing injury or death in battle against the attackers of the man I fight to help). Of course even if I was being paid to help I would still need the virtue of courage.

    Plato (at the start of the “Republic” – not a good translation perhaps but it will have to do) attacks the traditional definition of justice, but his attack is poor (he goes on about how can it be just to give back an axe, one has borrowed, to a person who one knows has gone mad and will use the axe to attack people) in that is just seeking to avoid (rather than refute) the traditional non aggression principle of justice.

    Then (of course) Plato just starts going on about his ideas on the polis (such as his ideas for a better polis) whilst pretending that what he is writing is somehow relevant to the matter of justice.

    For the record (in case anyone is tempted to go and read the Republic) the polis Plato suggests is one in which a system of “noble” lies will convince people that the elite have a right to rule and this elite (the Gold and Silver guardians) will be brought up on communal principles and will censor writings and speech, make sure that the ordinary folk are not “too rich or too poor” (undefined) and so on.

    All one can say for the Republic is that it is better that nightmare dump Plato descibes as his ideal state in “The Laws”.

    Yes I know that lots of clever people explain away Plato’s stuff as not a real blue print for a better polis but a way of making philosphical points. Fair enough, perhaps the disclaimer (“what follows is not to be taken litterally”) got lost in the thousands of times Plato’s stuff got copied.

    But then I am not one of the elite of clever people (my maths are not up to it and I can not even spell in English – let alone read Classical Greek), I am just a “iron and brass” type who wishes that Plato would bugger off to Sparta and not come back.

    As for the Welfare State, one of the few members of the House of Commons who worry about how means tested benefits (including the so called “tax credits”) have corrupted the people is the Labour party man Frank Field.

    It is even rumoured that Mr Field has some sympathy for the old days when ordinary folk cooperated together in such things as “Friendly Societies” (the American equivalent were “Fraternities” – in the days before this word just meant drunken students) rather than depended on the state for such things as health care.

    No suprise that Mr Brown (the British economic Czar – there is no real American equivalent for “Chancellor of the Exch) hates Mr Field.

    To be fair to Plato (having slagged him off above) he does point out (in the Republic) that the way a democracy becomes a tyranny is when the people are convinced by a politician to vote themselves money from the public treasury (“the rich will pay” is the claim).

    Of course then the politicians concerned ask for full time security people to protect them (the rich might kill them you see) – then the people face a standing army and a secret police (and are in deep trouble).

    Aristotle made a distinction between a democracy (where people followed the practice of trying to vote themselves money) and what he called a “polity” (every polis would seem to be a polity, but Aristotle had a special sort of polity in mind) where most voters were independent of the state.

    The example Aristotle gives (in the lecture notes we call the Politics) is a polis where most voters are famers – of course most people in Attica were farmers, but they did not tend to travel to Athens for every Assembly meeting (and so got outvoted by the city mob).

    Interestingly Artistotle counts most farmers as part of “the poor” whom he defines as people who do not own slaves. But then lots of clever scholars have shown that most citizens in Ancient Athens owned slaves – so what did Aristotle know about a city he lived many years in.

    Before I go (I have a little posting to write) I better give the standard warning about Artistotle – although he wrote many things that libertarians like (for example that giving taxpayers money to the poor was like pouring wine into a cup with no bottom in it) he was not “one of us”.

    We know this because he attacked Lycrophon (none of Lycrophon’s books survive – do not confuse him with other writers of the same name) for arguing that the sole function of government was to prevent people aggressing against the bodies and goods of each other.

    To Aristotle the government of the Polis was also there to make people “just and good” – which shows a touching (or touched) triumph of hope over experience when one conisiders the results (again and again over the last few thousand years) of government efforts to make people good.

  • To be fair to Aristotle, in 300 BC there was more hope and less experience. After over 2,500 years of history to fall back on, we have far less excuse.

  • If the junk food is so bad for the kiddies, they could tax it and use the money to fund expanded compulsory physical education as part of the compulsory public school system.

    If that offends the kiddies too much, what options do they have other than private school? Is homeschooling allowed over there?

  • RobtE

    Two observations:

    1) When discussing rights, the speed with which one introduces the subject of “responsibilities” is generally a pretty good indicator of one’s tendency to authoritarianism. See Guy’s spot-on (as bloody usual) post above.

    2) The whole focus on healthy eating vs. junk food in the UK in the last couple of years – from childhood obesity to Jamie’s school menu thing – is really just a new class war. The concept of what is desirable/healthy/tasty, and which is therefore to be desired, is an obsession of the vocal middle-class that is being imposed on a quiescent working class.


  • I cannot stand the thought of Blair stepping in, but the threat
    of force is even more disruptive because it forces firms to divert resources to both conceiving and complying with voluntary regulation. Ironically, if Blair would just legislate compliance it would be easier for industry to digest its consequences.

  • Colin

    New beard ( which really suits you, BTW), new Perry, harsher rants. — causal link?

  • 1327

    This weeks hot weather has attracted the local underclass to the park in front of my workplace. They turn up just after midday (I presume they don’t get up early) head out to the off licence and spent a lovely afternoon laid out in the park drinking then when the alcohol takes effect fighting and stealing. These people aren’t down and outs they are in their early 20’s , male and female , wear the latest burberry fakes and can afford reasonable booze (no meths for them). So I have spent the afternoon working in a hot office looking down at people doing sod all and having a lovely time on my tax money. But what can I do ? Nu-Lab seems determined to give them even more money and “Dave” wants me to hug the hoddies. It really is amazing to see the Politicians avoiding this issue.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    The obesity epidemic stuff is largely rubbish, and I second every word of what Alfred Neumann and others have said here. If parents are concerned that their offspring are getting fat, perhaps those parents should ask themselves why they don’t encourage their children to take more exercise. Of course, we live a relatively sedendary lifestyle these days, but that is a choice.

    Mind you, if this heat remains, I will probably lose a few kilos through sheer sweat. ugh.

  • veryretired

    Statist minds can only envision statist solutions.

    If the result of regulation is unsatisfactory, the solution is always more and harsher regulation.

    Nothing is beyond the reach of good intentions.

    In the final analysis, all state actions come down to the ownership of power— who has it, and from what source is it derived?

    Any person whose life is under another’s complete control, and who has no right to the disposition of the product of his labor, is a slave.

    Who do you belong to?

  • There is light at the end of the tunnel, at least here in Australia. Thirty years of mainlining unconditional welfare into remote Aboriginal communities has left them as war zones with 90% male unemployment rates, wife-beating and rape as common place.

    Interestingly, it is not only right-wing free-marketers who are banging the ‘welfare is broken’ drum, but the Australian Labour Party too. Payments in some communities are to be tied to children attending school.

    It’s a start.

    And yes, people who accept payments from the State do have responsibilities. To say otherwise is ideological nonsense.

  • Indeed, Guy, you are correct, which is my point (though I think one or two have not grasped it).

    To clarify then, when it comes to the “responsibilities” in my post, I refer to responsibility of ones own actions.

    The Welfare State has allowed people to junk their own personal responsibilities and exchanged them for rights – the duty upon others as you say.

    Am I mistaken in thinking that I was being accused of authoritarianism back then? How extraordinary.

  • guy herbert

    There’s a solid piece on the same theme by Rob Lyons over on spiked:

    What we need is not an ‘enabling’ government, if we’re only enabled to do what the authorities want.

  • Part of the problem is the zombification of the kids with television, the other side of the coin being that parents are terrorized by the criminal element, the threat of muggings, kidnappings, molestation, and recruitment into gangs, that the parents choose to shut their children up in their homes, sedated by the boob tube.

  • M

    Yet all this dances around the issue that people buy what they want not because the labelling says this or that, but because they like it and there is no clear economic motivation to worry all too much about long term medical consequences when the NHS takes care of all that stuff.

    People die because of their choice of foods despite NHS efforts. If avoiding slow, lingering death is not sufficient to promote rational decision-making about food, then economics wont do any better. If adults cannot bother to eat rationally, kids haven’t got a chance. Ban the junk.

    Your kids can still get it at the store if they really want it. The extra excercise wont hurt.

  • People die because of their choice of foods despite NHS efforts

    You miss the whole point. Things like the NHS and nanny state have trained people to not take responsibility for themselves. It is people like you who presume to ‘ban the junk’ that are the root of the problem.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    The state should stay out of it. If people cannot take responsibility for their own actions, by means of exercising and controlling their diet, it’s none of our business anyway. As long as their healthcare is not on our dime, it’s not our problem, and does not affect us in any way.

    Furthermore, we should think of it as evolution in action. The weak and stupid will weed themselves out. The gene pool could stand a bit of cleansing. The filth can do it themselves. The rest of us need not bother. They were told, were shown, the evidence that extreme obesity is bad, but they presisted. Blame us not for their stupidity and stubbornness.

    And yes, my remarks are extremely callous, but since we can’t do anything about the attitudes of people, who gives a flying fuck? Leave the state out of it.

    For what it’s worth, there was a study recently that found that many NBA athletes were considered obese by the BMI, which immediately tells you using it as the sole gauge of obesity is a crock. A better method is to find the waist-to-height ratio, and the associated body fat percentage.