February 01, 2011

Is the "nanny state" bad?

Someone on Facebook declared that the rise of the "nanny state" (i.e., a government regulated for the safety of the majority) has coincided with an increase in violence and other social ills. I posted this response:

Is the "nanny state" bad? One could argue just the opposite: that the lack of "protections" gave the US a Wild West mentality that allowed and encouraged worker exploitation, slavery, Civil War, and genocide. That these things have become less thinkable precisely because of increased government oversight.

All in all, I'm happier to live now, with a life expectancy of 80 or whatever, than then, when 50 was considered old. People died from disease, hardship, or violence that we've reduced through regulation.

This led to the following discussion with FB friend John:I think you will find that stronger, self reliant individuals usually do prefer the freedom from the nanny state in spite of the hardships of the wild west.I think you'll find that stronger, self-reliant individuals like to impose exploitation, slavery, war, and genocide on others. As US history demonstrates.I disagree.Andrew Jackson: strong, self-reliant embodiment of the rugged individualist? Or slave-owner, warmonger, and genocidal maniac? Or both? Discuss.

FB friend JRey chimed in:Hmm....Tempting at first glance to say both, but--I think being a slave owner or otherwise usurping the fruits of the labor of others without just compensation precludes one from being a rugged individualist. Truly 'self made' people do not rely on unearned privilege.Do self-made people move into Indian territory and declare it their own with the backing of the US Army? I.e., take land as a free government handout? Because that would eliminate most Americans from about 1800 to 1900.

Including my immigrant Schmidt ancestors. Oops!

FB friend Paul also chimed in:The nanny state has not eliminated the following: worker exploitation, slavery, and genocide.It's reduced these things significantly in the US.

This is a classic case of white men like John arguing from their position of white privilege. How many women or minorities would argue that America's unregulated past was better than its regulated present? Let's ask blacks if they want to go back to the days of slavery, lynchings, and Jim Crow laws. Or ask Indians if they want to go back to the days of subjugation, assimilation, and termination? I'm betting most of them will say no.

For more on the subject, see Didier:  Stop "Protecting the Weak," Westerners = Freeloaders, and The Myth of American Self-Reliance.

Below:  Americans head west for government-granted freebies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Considering that not that long ago, tobacco companies were claiming smoking was good for you...