What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: peasap
Because it believes you are unable or unwilling to take care of yourself, the state aims to do it for you. This trend started subtly at first, of course, for who would welcome tyranny when presented as such? No, the nanny state increases incrementally, working by degrees to assert control over your life.
At times, stories of the nanny state’s interventions catch fire in the news, as has happened lately with two examples. Both of these stories are but an infinitesimally small fraction of the many ways in which the state treats adults as children, and imposes mandates that implicitly assume that such persons are too stupid to make appropriate decisions for themselves.
Like Utah, the state of Idaho exerts illegitimate control over the state’s alcohol supply. There, the Liquor Control Division recently ruled that a certain drink may not be sold at state-controlled liquor stores, nor in private bars. The drink in question is called “Five Wives Vodka,” and features a drawing of five 19th-century women with kittens in their petticoats.
In a letter written to the drink’s Utah-based manufacturer, the alcohol-banning agent in Idaho wrote the following (multiple typos in the original):
Social responsibility is very important aspect of the marketing and sales of distilled spirits in the State Idaho. The Idaho State Liquor Division is responsible for the safety and well-being of the citizens of our State.
Products that we feel are marketed toward children, or are in poor state with respect to our citizens will not be authorized for distribution.
We feel Five Wives Vodka concept is offensive to a prominent segment of our population and will not be carried.
Thus, because some bureaucrat believes that the title and/or image is offensive to Mormons, he has prohibited it for sale—while hypocritically allowing Polygamy Porter, another drink, to be sold. According to NPR, the title and drawing are not even a reference to polygamy, but are, as the company’s director of marketing said, “five wives who just like to get together and have a cocktail.”
But the bureaucrats disagreed. “My team made the recommendation that this is offensive to women, and it’s offensive in addition to the whole [Mormon] faith, because they’re playing on that whole polygamy thing,” Idaho liquor control division director Jeff Anderson told the Los Angeles Times.
Of course, only individuals can determine whether they find something offensive. Products should not be restricted from the open market simply because some illegitimately-empowered government agent believes that somebody may not like it. This is a classic example of the nanny state, and is oddly even more restrictive than Utah—a state with very strict anti-alcohol policies—where the drink is allowed for sale.
The nanny state’s regulation of beverages appears to be in vogue at the moment. In New York City—where one might expect such absurdity to be common fare—Mayor Bloomberg is about to enact a ban on large sugary drinks to “combat obesity.” Gone are the days of the government confining itself to protecting the lives of its citizens—now it uses its supreme authority to mandate behavior it believes will extend their lives. What’s next, mandated vitamin consumption with jail time for those who refuse?
Of course, this mandate is absurd since instead of being able to buy one large drink, people can buy two medium drinks. How does the Head Nanny respond to this? “Your argument, I guess, could be that it’s a little less convenient to have to carry two 16-ounce drinks to your seat in the movie theater rather than one 32 ounce,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a sarcastic tone. “I don’t think you can make the case that we’re taking things away.”
This latter claim comes in response to the argument that this mandate limits consumer’s choices, and is therefore a bad idea. Whether that is true or not (of course it’s true), it is beside the point. The point missed by so many is that the government has no authority to enact such bans in the first place. People cannot dictate to their neighbors what size (or type) of a drink they may consume, and therefore cannot empower the state to do it on their behalf.
But legitimate authority and moral behavior has never been a concern of the nanny state. Its smackdowns come with no regard for the liberty and property of those being affected. Propagandized with feel-goodery and justified as altruistic behavior, the nanny state’s initiatives inevitably come at the expense of the liberty and property of those it aims to assist. In pursuit of promoting a worthy end (such as not offending people or helping fight obesity), its agents employ evil means.
No better conclusion to a topic such as this could be provided than by this one from C.S. Lewis:
Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim 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.