Sunday, December 30, 2007

Nanny State


I can't believe that it's almost New Year's Eve and I haven't written here at all in December -- and only once in November! I don't know where the time has gone. It's not that I don't have spare moments for writing; it's that I can't often let myself pursue the things I'd like to write about. I have a one-track mind, and if I turn away from a freelance job with a deadline, I tend to get sidetracked on whatever I've turned to. And so I try not to interrupt my work. But I do want to keep blogging, and doing so more often will be my New Year's resolution.

I rarely have much chance to read nowadays, and small fonts are harder on my aging eyes than the computer screen. Furthermore, I have two large cats that will not share my lap with a book, and after forcing them to allow me the use of my keyboard throughout most of my waking hours, I'm unwilling give a book precedence over them. So my hours of reading are few and far between. I do, however, occasionally finish a book that particularly impresses me. The most recent is Nanny State: How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and Other Boneheaded Bureaucrats Are Turning America into a Nation of Children by David Harsanyi.

Nanny State is a wonderful book that should be read by everyone who objects to government intrusion into private lives. If any of you have been thinking that the trend carried to extremes in Stewards of the Flame is nothing to really worry about, read Nanny State and ponder how far we've already come along that road. Harsanyi doesn't deal specifically with health issues, except in the case of laws prohibiting personal choices about seatbelts, smoking, and now even food. But what he describes reveals the handwriting on the wall. It's not just that officials make silly laws, although as we all know, they do, and my personal opinion is that the medical do-gooders are the most dangerous to our freedom. (As I said in my own book, "Whenever health authorities succeed in overcoming some actual problem, such as contagion, they are left with a bureaucracy that must justify its existence by medicalizing more and more aspects of simply being human.") The truly appalling thing is that the voters, indoctrinated by the sensation-seeking media, let them do it -- that in Harsanyi's words, "Government, with the help an an infinitesimal minority of busybodies, has twisted the public's arm into obedience." Most people are not even aware of the extent to which our liberty is being given up.

The book's epigraph is a quotation from C.S. Lewis: "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." Think about that.