Giving thanks for the nanny state

Within the first 14 seconds of every political debate, one side will throw up the word nanny, as in: “I don’t want to live in a nanny state,” or “Please put lead back in my paint.”

See what I did there? There aren’t many of us left to sing the virtues of toxic wall coverings and, thanks to old-timey nannyism, your window-sill-gnawing kids are somewhat normal.

Let’s take a moment to remember the people who made this world a better place by:

  • Banning DDT
  • Prohibiting slavery
  • Taking the sawdust (and worse) out of our hot dogs
  • Pricking you with the polio vaccine
  • Checking that the wings won’t fall off your airplane
  • Making the cook wash his hands

This list can go on for days. But here’s the gist: they’re all examples of government (us) deciding that even though some people are inconvenienced or put out of business, overall good trumps your opinion.

Nannyism sounds bad and of course it can be overdone (see 18th amendment prohibition fiasco), but overall, it’s made America a better place to live. Chances are you owe your life to a law that’s saved you from eating mad cows or flying through a windshield.

Lead paint companies protested. So did slave owners, hot dog rollers, and the polio factory. We all have vested interests to defend sure, but what’s strange to me is that so many people defend interests that don’t defend them.

Without the FDA nanny testing food, darling little Susie might eat Radioact-O’s® for breakfast. Without the FDA nanny, Pfaxo-Bayerson® could cello-wrap guano and call it penicillin.

The FDA now wants McBurgerBell® to stop making fat taste good. Is that so wrong? They want to call nicotine a drug because it’s more addictive than crack. Is that really out of bounds?  New York City wants Dr. Poksi (again ®) to ease up on tempting kids with buckets of sugar water. That’s a bad thing?

We all benefit from nannyism whether we want to admit it or not. We’re only outraged when it affects us directly. “How dare they not serve me whisky? I’m 14 and a half, dagnabit!” 

“Who do they think they are telling me I can’t go over Niagara Falls in a barrel?”

The government has a role as nanny because we make dumb decisions that affect other people – and because smart people will take from the stupid. That’s why we won’t let you serve little Timmy a shot, why we don’t let you to drive a tour bus drunk, and it’s why we make sure you’re paid a minimum wage. It’s even why we have an Air Force. You can’t stop a Russian MiG dropping a bomb on your house – but Nanny Sam can.

Look, obviously there’s a limit to what the government should tell us to do, but are you sure the issue you’re so fired up about is the line they shouldn’t cross? The next time you’re tempted to start your anti-nanny rant, remember: You benefit from a regulation every 48 minutes. They can’t be all bad.


Categories: Economy/Politics