Thursday, July 14, 2011

How on earth did we make it this far?

Is it just me, or have the apostles of the Nanny State become markedly more aggressive of late?  Examples abound, from the looming federal ban on the incandescent light bulb, to our own Governor Patrick's recent veto of a budget provision that would have spared the Commonwealth's cigar bars from various locally imposed bans set to go into effect over the next few years.  “I am vetoing this section because it prevents local officials from protecting the public health of their citizens,’’ Patrick wrote in his veto message.

Mrs. Doubtfire for President of the Nanny State
What Patrick really meant was, "it prevents local officials from protecting the ignorant masses from themselves."  That's the consistent, patronizing, condescending pat-on-the-head rationale that always underlies this kind of Nanny Statism.  "We, your intellectual superiors in government, know better than you.  You cannot be trusted to make rational decisions, therefore options must be taken from you, (or you must be punished).  It is for your own good."

Following more than two hundred years of near exclusive reliance on the incandescent light bulb, illumination technology has recently made multiple huge leaps forward.  New bulbs consume orders of magnitude less power, shine brighter and last much longer.  They also suck like a Hoover.  The light they cast is cold and lifeless, drawing constant references to an operating room or school gymnasium.  Advocates for the new technology insist these perceptions exist only in the minds of skeptics and traditionalists, but this is bunk. My wife replaced the bulb in but one of our family room lamps.  I had no idea she had done so; no idea even that she was contemplating doing so.  The first time I walked into the room I immediately drew up short and asked "what is wrong with the light in here?"  It was colorless... and flickering.

The technology is moving in the right direction.  There is every reason to believe that in the not-so-distant future, a perfect - or even superior - replacement for the incandescent bulb will be invented.  But close is not good enough for the Nanny State.  The People by and large hate those twisty, flickering, flat-light bulbs.  So The People must be forced by law to buy them.

No patron of a cigar bar has ever in the history of cigar bars been heard to complain about the smoke.  People who visit such establishments do so of their own free will, because they enjoy smoking cigars and doing so in the company of others with similar likes.  To the denizens of the Nanny State this is intolerable.  It must be prevented.  For our own protection.

Warning: Your government thinks you are an idiot.
Likewise cigarettes.  Not a soul in the developed world can any longer plausibly claim not to know that cigarette smoking can kill.  Clear and explicit warnings to that effect have appeared on product packaging for decades.  Billions upon billions have been spent drilling that message into our kids.  And yet people keep smoking.  The Nanny State does not understand how this could be.  Words have not worked, and so we'll have pictures now.  Graphic pictures, taking up the lion's share of packaging real estate.  And if that doesn't work?  What next?  Will they require cigs to come packed in actual diseased lung tissue?

Massachusetts lawmakers are taking their umpteenth run at imposing a 'primary enforcement' seat belt law (they will not stop until we have one).  Every couple of years standards for child safety seats in cars are ratcheted up a few notches; I fully expect my grand kids to test for their driving permits while strapped into boosters, possibly facing backward.

Federal regulators are moving to ban marketing of "junk food" to kids, a broad category that includes such childhood staples as Frosted Flakes and fruit roll-ups.  Starting next year, "junk food" will be banned in school cafeterias across the Commonwealth.  No Twinkies, no chips, no soda or Hawaiian Punch.  No white bread.  No, I'm not kidding.  Massachusetts just banned Wonder Bread.  Junior will eat fortified multigrain or nothing, thank you very much.
Banned in MA
Remember the classic Springsteen tune, My Hometown?  That bit about sitting on his dad's lap in that big ol' Buick, steerin' as they drove through town?  These days the song would end with Bruce's pop jailed on a  reckless endangerment charge and the Boss in foster care.

Speaking of foster care, a couple of Harvard researchers just published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association proposing that obese children should be taken from their parents and placed into foster care.  And just by the by, according to the federal government Tom Cruise, Sylvester Stallone and the Governator are all "obese."  This one might stand for a month or more as the new high water mark of Nanny State overreach, but it won't be long before someone outdoes this pair of big brained nincompoops.

Next step: take away their bikes.
I live in the same neighborhood where I grew up, but in many ways it is a different place.  When I was a kid, packs of my peers roamed the neighborhood throughout the day, riding bicycles, playing street hockey, tag, wiffle ball, even tackle football - without a helmet in sight.  During the summer it wasn't uncommon for us to reemerge from our houses after dinner, to play ghost in the graveyard long after dark.  Now it is rare to see a group of kids playing in a front yard.  We parents have slipped into a low-simmering state of mild collective panic.  We don't let our kids do stuff like that.  Something could happen.  What, exactly?  Who knows.  But something.

I don't even want to think about what we'll be doing to our kids in another fifteen years.  Will they be allowed to ride in cars at all?  Will we fit them for constant-wear helmets at birth?  What are the chances high school football has more than a decade left?  Unrealistic?  New York recently moved to outlaw kickball.

As  I'm typing, a State House News bulletin pops up on my screen.  "Lawmakers hear pitch for law targeting workplace bullying." 
With a law on the books targeting bullying in schools, it is time to look at another common arena for bullying: the workplace, according to supporters of another bullying proposal.

Known as the healthy workplace bill, the legislation would define and make it illegal to bully an employee or colleague.

Rep. Frank Smizik (D-Brookline) said there is a gap in the current bullying laws that needs to be closed.

"We neglected to acknowledge that bullying is not restricted to our children," he said.
Rep. Smizik is rapidly becoming my favorite state rep.  But he's neglecting to acknowledge that (most) adults aren't children.

It isn't enough to infantilize our kids.  Now we're going to start infantilizing ourselves.  On this we're already behind the curve.  Connecticut already has a bill.  So does Oregon.  There's an institute that keeps track. Why wouldn't there be?  Anyone willing to bet it doesn't receive taxpayer funding?

The advance of the Nanny State is slow, but steady.  On a day to day basis these little incursions into our lives and go largely unnoticed.  It is only when they are considered all together that the degree to which we are slowly abdicating to government control over our lives becomes appallingly apparent.  As we consider the growing number of ways in which our government "protects" us from ourselves, the question arises: how on earth did we make it this far?  With our unhelmeted  young heads, riding in the back of the station wagon, eating our Hostess Cakes and our PB&J on white, our ignorant and irresponsible parents sitting up front, blissfully unconcerned that a government bureaucrat might at any moment swoop in to snatch us off to foster care?  How ever did we survive to grow into adult citizens of the Nanny State?

No comments:

Post a Comment

No spamming, flaming, cursing, or other such nonsense tolerated. Thanks for engaging on those terms - Greg