Nanny State

Who's Your Nanny?


California Republicans are irked by the "nanny government" proposals of Democratic legislators, Inside Bay Area reports. The article clouds more than it clarifies, lumping together clearly paternalistic measures (such as seat belt and motorcycle helmet laws) with laws that ostensibly aim to protect third parties from injury (such as an anti-spanking bill and a ban on using hand-held cell phones while driving). Even the incandescent light bulb ban proposed by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) is officially intended not simply to save homeowners money but to protect the environment by reducing energy consumption and abating bglobal warming. Such measures may be ill-advised, but it's not because they exemplify "nanny government." In any case, it's hard to see how Democrats have an advantage in this area over Republicans, who if anything are more inclined to support policies aimed at preventing self-harm caused by using drugs, gambling, and looking at dirty pictures. Is there any meaningful sense in which Democratic paternalism is more nannyish than Republican paternalism?

NEXT: What, No SWAT Team?

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  1. Jacob, it almost feels like you’re defending the measures. And wouldn’t outlawing spanking be the epitome of a “nanny” law, being as it is a law about how to raise your children?

  2. Hey, I read the following over on national review in a letter sent to Rich Lowry an posted on the Corner. Can anyone confirm it?

    “California may mandate [switching to flourescent bulbs]. By the way, a few years ago California declared florescent tubes to be a hazardous waste because they contain mercury As of this year, you can be fined if they are found to be in your garbage.”

    If it’s true….. it’s typical.

  3. reducing energy consumption and abating blobal warming

    Man, I wish folks would get off this. Nothing wrong with a big warm blob.

  4. I could stand to get my bals blone warmly.

  5. Is there any meaningful sense in which Democratic paternalism is more nannyish than Republican paternalism?

    Mostly because Democratics want government to take care of you because they are afraid you won’t do it yourself – Social Security, health care, etc.

    Republicans want to stop you from doing stuff, because they are afraid you will do it yourself – drugs, marrying a guy, etc.

    Therefore, Democrats get the more “nannyish” reputation. I guess Republicans get the more…uh….”assholeish” reputation.

  6. Is there any meaningful sense in which Democratic paternalism is more nannyish than Republican paternalism?

    Tobacco comes to mind. So does trans-fat and other obesity related topics. There’s gun control (there’s a ‘third party’ argument to be made but it’s hard not to characterize Dem city laws as other than Nannyish) Also, minimum wage, people can’t be trusted to decide their own worth.

    What about advertisements directed at children? I know the Reps usually take the upper hand in protecting the children, but the Dems lead the way in Corprate bashing.

  7. I think that Republicans stopped pretending to value liberty pretty much the moment that Dubya stepped into the White House.

    Apart from a few backbenchers, I see no GOP types raising bloody hell against Democratic-style nannyism or raising questions about the tyrannical aspects of social conservatism. The GOP has pretty much given up the ghost as a party of ideas, and the Dems are primarily Eurosocialists. Unfortunately, I think Americans have become so accustomed to slowly giving up our liberty, that I see no large constituency for libertarians to talk to.

  8. “Nannyish paternalism” is sort of an oxymoron – the (liberal) Democrats are “nannyish” in their desire to make you do what’s “good for you,” like a good nanny would, while the (socially conservative) Republicans are the strict fathers, forbidding the “pleasures” that they think are “bad for you.”

    The notion that adult citizens need neither nannies nor fathers running their lives and making their choices does not seem to have crossed the minds of those on either side.

    My father always said proscription was inherently less intolerable than prescription, but he was a die-hard liberal, so go figure.

    My reaction to government intervention/interference from either side is usually “GO AWAY!”

  9. ??? edit the damn post!

    Is there any meaningful sense in which Democratic paternalism is more nannyish than Republican paternalism?

    You have that backwards. Earlier text indicates that Democrats are more Nannyish -so shouldn’t you be calling for examples that Republicans are just as bad or worse?

  10. ?WTF?,
    No, I follow Jacob’s thinking here. He’s making two points. One, not all ‘laws we don’t like’ are truly ‘Nannyish’. Two, while the Dems have a reputation as Nannystaters, the Reps deserve it more.

    I however, contend that there’s more than enough NannyTar(tm) to go around. In fact, we’re going to need a bigger brush.

  11. Two, while the Dems have a reputation as Nannystaters, the Reps deserve it more.

    No, I would say Sullum’s point isn’t so much that as how can Republicans complain about nannyism themselves when they’ll glad resort to it themselves. In other words, Sullum’s not saying Republicans are not more nannyish (I don’t think Sullum comments on that), only that they’re just as likely to use the logic of nannyism when it suits them and thus how can they raise that complaint?

    Of course, Sullum’s own point provides the answer to his own question: because it suits them! What politician wouldn’t accuse the opposition of that which he is guilty of himself if he thought he could get the charge to stick to the opposition without fear of (equally or more greatly damaging) reprisal?

  12. fyodor,
    Good point. That puts Sullum’s last sentence in a different light for me. He’s not asking if Dems are worse on particular issues. He’s saying a pox on both their houses.

  13. He’s also raising the point about the distinction between “nannyist” and other intrusive types of legislation. The ostensive difference being that nannyist legislation (seatbelts and helmets) is aimed at preventing self-harm, while cellphone bans and lightbulb SWAT teams are more in the business of keeping us from harming one another.

    Since parents can be (over)concerned about both aspects of childrens’ behavior, both approaches can rightly be called paternalist. But hurling the nanny label at any paternalist law reduces its effectiveness.

  14. The label’s effectiveness, that is. The laws are generally ineffective to begin with.

  15. You can’t determine whether a law is a nanny law based on the arguments of the supporters. People argue for smoking bans and seatbelt and helmet laws based on the harm these things cause to others. Since these things can land you in a hospital and taxes help fund hospitals, you are harming every taxpayer. Just because the supporters of a law say they support it to block harm to others doesn’t mean its not a nanny law.

  16. Dave B,

    You’re being weird. No, the very thing that makes a law a “nanny state” law is the goal of its supporters to save people from themselves.

    Now, I’ll agree that this may be difficult to nail down as solid fact oftentimes both because different supporters of a law may state different goals and because those supporters may be disengenuous in their public pronouncements about what they’re after, but the concept has no substantive meaning unless it’s based on what a law’s supporters claim are the law’s supposed benefit.

  17. “Is there any meaningful sense in which Democratic paternalism is more nannyish than Republican paternalism?”

    There is a meaningful difference in the magnitude of the cost to the taxpayers of the programs created by the Democrats vs the Republicans.

    Add up the totals spent on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, foodstamps, etc. over the entire span of those programs existence and the amount dwarfs the cost of any programs created by Republicans.

  18. Libertarian
    From Uncyclopedia, the content-free encyclopedia.
    “A Libertarian is the same thing as a Liberal….without all the commie crap.”

    ~ Oscar Wilde
    Contents [hide]
    1 Origins
    2 Etymology
    3 Mission
    4 Common activities
    5 Political views
    6 The Libertarian Song
    7 Reading instructions
    8 Related Articles

    Once upon a time, people were OK. They lived as nomads, huffed kittens, and hunted and gathered in peace. Then came Government. Government tried to rob the poor humans of their Money and Freedom in exchange for superficially appealing but ultimately pointless crap, like…security and providing for the common good of such places as No Orleans and Nagasaki. No, humans!!! Fight back! Don’t give in!

    I…I’m sorry, I just hate writing about this part.

    The humans surrendered all that was good about their lives, including all their money, and the probability that they would be spontaneously killed at any given moment, and gave it all to the filthy, dirty Government! What did Government do in return? It made them murderous, adulterous and avaricious bastards ready to kill their fellow man for a nickel! Mankind was OK no more, and Utopia came crashing down around us, probably killing a few squirrels in the process.

    The people who didn’t like this, and thus opposed governments, were called Libertarians, or “Smart Liberals”.

    The word libertarian derives from the word liberty (ultimately from the Greek word ????????), proving for all to see that libertarians value freedom which oppresses people by forcing them to decide things for themselves. They have, however, completely different views from liberals, which value freedom, and libertines, which also value freedom. There is also no relation to the country Liberia, which was founded to give people freedom. Nor are libertarians related to Bertarians, who developed their political philosophy by watching Bert from Sesame Street.

    To oppose all forms of Government and its evil became the goal of the Libertarians, the small minority of humans with brains. Though they perform horrendously in Government’s so-called “elections”, this group must be the victims of Government’s oppression, because they actually represent the views of everyone. Or at least the small minority with brains. Yes, that makes sense!

    [edit]Common activities
    When not fighting the War on the War on Drugs, cheating on taxes, or purchasing purely-for-self-defense machine guns, libertarians often argue with each other over various doctrinal points, especially between the camps of aneurists, who believe that government is a disease to be cured, and minarchists, who believe that the government should be headed by Minnie Mouse (who, being a fictional character, would be unable to enact any evil, detestable, oppressive laws).

    [edit]Political views
    The core of libertarian views is usually considered to be an extreme form of capitalism, that is, the belief that if rich greedy selfish people who care only about their own profit are allowed to do whatever they want, they will accidentally end up doing what is best for society at large. Reportedly, this view is extremely popular among rich greedy selfish people. Furthermore, everything would be run perfectly if only everything were run by capitalism, the same system that gave us Microsoft Windows and Enron.

    Additionally, libertarians have a simple logical personal morality code, based on the tenet that people should have the freedom to do whatever they want, unless it infringes on the freedom of others. This deceptively concise recursive rule, however, has led to some controversial conclusions.

    [edit]The Libertarian Song
    To honor the sacred Liberarian cause, industrial-metal pioneer Oscar Wilde and his partner in crime, the famous novelist Trent Reznor, wrote these immortal lyrics of protest, which have been set to a famously stirring melody by the distinguished Libertarian band, Rage Against the Machine.

    When the Libertarians come to town
    Everything will turn upside down
    No one will wear a frown
    when the Libertarians come to town

    The government will shrink to naught
    Your coffee will always be hot
    And it will be the cheapest you’ve ever bought
    when the Libertarians come to town

    You won’t have to pay income taxes
    No need to worry about downsizers’ axes
    The best companies will send you faxes
    when the Libertarians come to town

    The invisible Hand of God will keep
    every business exec and veep
    on the straight and narrow, and we all will reap
    peace and plenty when the Libertarians come to town

    the free market will improve every school
    Child geniuses will become the rule
    our learning will make every nation drool
    when the Libertarians come to town

    When the Libertarians to Washington come
    The streets will clear of vandal, bum
    pimps and pushers will get to run
    safe and legal businesses for everyone
    when the Libertarians come to town

    Send in the Libertarians…
    Send in the Libertarians…
    Won’t someone, please, send in the Libertarians…

    [edit]Reading instructions
    Exchanging the word ‘government’ for the word ‘pavement’ in any libertarian text will greatly enhance the reading experience.

    [edit]Related Articles
    Libertarian Party



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  19. Is there any meaningful sense in which Democratic paternalism is more nannyish than Republican paternalism?

    Kind of. I can use drugs, look at dirty pictures and gamble. I cannot, however, smoke within 20′ of a public place. Who’s winning the culture war now?

  20. Let’s just cut to the chase.

    Both parties boil down to:

    “You’re not behaving how we like so we’ll MAKE you behave”

    Everything else is just stylistic differences.

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