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Monday, September 17, 2012

In Praise of the Nanny State

Not enough government regulations and support for humans in this world is just as bad as too much regulation and support. What we need is a middle ground where creativity and growth flourishes without causing degradation and despair in its wake. The term Nanny State is a pejorative that seeks to marginalize the benefits that it brings along with it. The term is never used by people who need one. It is the people who feel that they don’t need to be supervised and constrained who begrudge its existence and feel that they are being unfairly made to pay the bills for it.


People in wealthy countries have a skewed perspective on the remainder of the world. Some Americans grouse about public schools providing breakfast and lunch meals to the pupils when it is obvious that the children’s parents should be making sure their children are fed nutritious meals each morning and bring with them a good lunch. They don’t like being told that whole chocolate milk is not permitted because it is not as healthy as low fat or no fat milk without the sweet stuff mixed in. They object to not allowing children to eat a candy bar as a snack instead of an apple or a peach. They say the state is too intrusive in their lives.

The simple fact is that there are millions of children who have neither a candy bar not an apple or a peach for any meals at all. They are the children in poor countries who sift through the landfills looking for the stuff they were told will earn them a few coins to add to the miniscule wages their parents earn, sometimes doing the exact same thing.

For them there is no Nanny State. They are truly on their own when it comes to surviving in their environment.

They have zero health coverage for anything that ails them. They do not eat unless they earn the coins that allow them to buy whatever there is to have. Children are malnourished, not educated and remain unskilled for the technical and industrial jobs that come to their country from abroad, especially America. In a country where adults earn the equivalent of a few hundred dollars per year, there is zero opportunity to save for a future where they can no longer work. Then they are pushed aside to make room for the next laborer.

“When she was 6 years old, Natasha’s father left her mother. Shortly after, her mother remarried and sent Natasha and her brother to the orphanage.” Source This story has been played out millions of times in hundreds of countries around the world. Where there is no Nanny State willing and able to address the plight of parents who are unwilling or unable to care for their children, the children are merely abandoned in place. The children then become cast-offs in dismal orphanages or become assets in the sex trade or other exploitations.

In the US, one might be without a permanent dwelling, but a few select individuals are able to keep themselves going with innovation. That innovation is predicated on there not being too many others in their same situation who are also too close and create a social structure that is rebelled against by the fortunate people who never will have to sleep on an urban street.

Sao Paolo, Brazil is a city where 11 million of the approximate 20 million inhabitants live in poverty. In this burgeoning city there is no attempt to regulate the construction of the shanties that have grown like ground cover plants over the land around the planned and officially constructed urban core. Here there is no Nanny State and therefore no sanitation, no garbage collection. Polluted water runs in open channels, people eke out a living as best they can with no help from any municipal authority. Imagine yourself having a heart attack near the center of the neighborhood on the left.


Most Indians own a mobile phone, but don't have access to private toilets. The government and activists hope to help. There go those Nanny Staters again, trying to get people to use a toilet when they would rather poop by the railroad tracks. In a country of 1.3 billion people, getting the word out is a difficult endeavor. There was a time in America about 110 years ago that we resisted putting those filthy things in our houses too. But then the municipal authorities forced the issue. Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania installed sanitary sewers in 1892 and began the conversion from backyard privies to water transport waste removal. Back then they had sufficient water to allow everyone to flush as much water as they wanted to in the pursuits of making their waste disappear. But then the river became a sewer in itself. Along came the Nanny State again telling the communities that they must not put raw sewage in the river. Treatment plants were built at the cost of millions of dollars to keep the river water clean enough for the next community to draw it for drinking. Now they want everyone to install “low-flow” 1.6 gallon commodes to limit the amount of water that is run through the treatment plant. The other side of that equation is the necessity to build a new treatment plant to handle twice the flow of today.

Without someone telling a group of people that the house they live in is only permitted for one family, they would pack two or three families in the house and overload its capacity to handle sewage, electricity and cars parked on the street. Nobody want a Nanny State telling them that they all can’t live in the same house. After all where they came from they were THAT packed in and they built the shanty themselves (without a toilet.)

If we want to have a civilization that exists above subsistence, and doesn’t deteriorate into decrepitude we need someone who has society’s best interest in mind. They may go too far sometimes, but that is far less damaging than not going far enough.

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