“Nanny state” is an ideological term invented by extremists to deride the innovations of modern law and government designed to offer consumers and citizens protections from risks that it is unreasonable to place on individuals alone. Of course many who now use the term d so innocently and now are merely concerned that in some areas the government has gone to far or got the details wrong. As one commentator on the ABC noted, the term is fluffy and near useless. Each suggested regulation needs to be tackled on its own merits. What is the nature of the restriction on liberty and how does that stack up against the likelihood of collective good?
On XX IQ Squared debates invited Christopher Zinn of CFA Member CHOICE and Professor Simon Chapman to defend the nanny state against the attacks of an ad man Rowan Dean and Chris Berg from the conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs. Champion debaters Patrick Bateman and Eleanor Jones were added to the mix. You can read the transcript or listen to the show here on the ABC site.
In my later life at CHOICE I have seen Nanny’s gifts in terms of greater product safety, constraints on unethical marketing of drugs and sanctions for shonky financial service providers.
The other side may argue economic freedom is somehow the natural state and regulation is artificial and superimposed–personified by the wicked nanny in various incarnations
Yet the market as we know it now would not exist without rules about misleading conduct, fraud, property, banking prudential regulation, competition rules etc.
And I make no apology for saying in some areas that nanny may need to go further.
For example it’s the law to have ENERGY STARS on fridges to help save electricity but the car industry pushes back from obligatory safety star ratings on vehicles to save lives.
The sad fact is the initiative for many of these positives nanny has given us come not from government — they may eventually pass the laws — nor from industry, whom I’m afraid often drag the chain protecting corporate interest over the public good.
No, the inspiration for the nanny state comes not from bothersome bureaucrats or meddling mandarins but from simple individuals – thousands and millions of them who believed something wasn’t right and decided to make it better. They are the heroes of this story. They are us.