The Nanny State
By Kevin Andrews - Australian Polity - Volume 1 (Number 4)
When the Australian Formula 1 driver, Mark Webber, described the country as a ‘Nanny State’, his remarks were misplaced. His comment followed an incident during the Australian Grand Prix when fellow driver, Lewis Hamilton, had a luxury car he was driving impounded after the Brit was involved in burn-outs late at night in a suburban street. Webber later retracted his remarks, realising that the campaign against hoon driving had helped to lower the road toll. Webber’s outburst would have been better directed to other targets.
Recently the Institute of Public Affairs published a list of more ridiculous examples of the Nanny State at work. Consider some of them: mandatory calorie counts at fast food restaurants, ad bans for ‘junk’ food, banning kite flying, preventing teachers from using red pans, and banning women-only holiday tours!
No wonder a Galaxy Poll commissioned by the IPA found that the majority of Australians (55 per cent) believe the country is becoming a ‘Nanny State’ with too much government intervention and control in people’s day to day lives. This view is widely held, but is most common among older Australians (61 per cent among those aged 50 years and older) and also those in regional and rural Australia (59 per cent).
“This poll shows that Australians are fed up with governments making rules that overly interfere in people’s lives,” said IPA Director, John Roskam.
The Rudd government also has been promoting the Nanny State, proposing that cigarettes be sold in plain paper packages. What is next? Plain labels on liquor bottles because some people over-indulge, or on biscuits because some people who might consume them are obese?
In Victoria, police are now fining motorists who leave their cars unlocked. Leaving aside the fact that most thefts are from locked cars, or the problem for a soft-top convertible or an open sports car, surely this is an area of human activity that calls for a modicum of self-responsibility. Not to mention the fact that our police would be better dealing with the growing knife culture that has developed in the city.
The school is a favourite place for the Nanny State. Kids complain that they can’t run around, kick a ball, or use the grounds after school hours. Perhaps the most egregious example comes from the UK, where a toddler at a playgroup near Manchester had the cheese sandwich from his lunchbox confiscated by teachers because it did not accord with their “healthy eating guidelines”. The child, Jack Ormisher, was offered fruit, nuts, seeds etc by the teachers as compensation.
As Roskam commented: “An important part of the Australian way of life is the freedom to do what you like as long as it isn’t hurting anyone else. But at the moment, governments are trying to create rules for everything from where I can fly a kite with my children, to how I can enjoy a quiet beer or what sort of food I can eat.”
In the Nanny State, the personal responsibility that underpins freedom is also weakened. People are to be protected against their own choices – and compensated when they make bad ones. It is one thing to educate people about the consequences of their choices; it is another to ban everyday activities because people might make a bad choice.