How useful is the nanny state?

No Right Turn attacks the opponents of the nanny state:

Complaining about the “nanny state” has been a key theme of National’s campaign, even if they have to make up things to complain about. But here’s something which might want to make people think. Tomorrow night is Guy Fawkes night (yes, when we celebrate an audacious attempted act of terrorism / enact a mindless anti-Catholic ritual / set things on fire for the hell of it). And for the second year in a row, fireworks will only be on sale for four days, only in packs, and only to over-18’s – a perfect example of Key’s “nanny state”. But as a result of this, my newspaper is completely empty of the “child loses eye to fireworks” stories we usually see. In fact, according to a Newstext search I just did, there have been no reported injuries so far (there has however been one dead horse).

Now, I’m a conservative. I’m not a libertarian. That means that I believe in a sensible, but minimal amount of regulation.

The problem people have with the nanny state is not regulation per se, but the fact that everything is regulated “for our own good”.

Yes, in the case of fireworks, I support this – it’s worked. It’s saved millions of dollars in fire callouts for starters. I blogged about this last year.

But why does the goverment find it nessessary to stop parents from smacking their children? Why does the goverment see fit to dictate how efficient my light bulbs must be, or how efficient my hot water must be?

The biggest looser if I have inefficient hot water is me, though higher bills. Ditto for lights. I have made it clear that I have in fact replaced all my light bulbs since starting this blog, purely because it saves me money. I am looking at my hot water now, but again, I am the direct looser if my system is inefficient.

Now, should a parent smack their child using reasonable force, there is actually by definition no harm whatsoever to anyone. At best, this saves 1 lawyer every two years from having to argue a case for child abuse. Of course, the fear is that this law will mean that good parents will be persecuted by CYFS and perhaps the police.

So state regulation can be beneficial, harmful, or just pushing people to do what they know is in their best interest.

Clearly if you get rid of the latter two categories, we would all be better off. But somehow the government doesn’t seem to trust us anymore to make simple decisions, even if those decisions make us better off. So instead of legislation covering problem areas, we have legislation in every possible area, needed or not.

Worse, every time people are not trusted to make a decision, the mentality that “someone else” should be responsible gets more ingrained, the expectation of “safety” from ill becomes greater. And the government finds yet another area there people are not doing what they are supposed to be, and we get another law.

That’s the nanny state. Treating adults like babies, removing decisions at every turn “because it’s for your own good”. Whether or not any given regulation works or not is completely and utterly irrelevant.

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