Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Nanny state

We've all done it. We've all fumed at one time or another about the nanny state and how the government keeps giving us advice we don't want or need, and how we're quite able to run our own lives, thanks very much.

We're assailed every day by official guidance on things like healthy food, giving up smoking, drinking less, drug abuse, coping with flu, obesity. We're encouraged to change our bad habits and behave more sensibly.

But do we really need all this advice or is it just patronising guff? Should they just shut up and let us decide for ourselves whether we want to be healthy or unhealthy?

My objection to all this stuff isn't so much that it's unnecessary - some people might welcome a bit of advice - but that a lot of it is misleading and confusing and not actually very helpful.

The experts keep changing their minds about what's healthy and what isn't. How much salt should I eat? How much wine should I drink? The guidelines shift every month. What about obesity? It's supposed to be deadly, but life expectancy keeps rising. How about drug abuse? It's widely condemned, but fatal overdoses are rare.

If we ignored them all and just followed our own instincts - which is what plenty of people do anyway - I doubt if we'd come to much harm. Chances are we'll still live to a ripe old age. And if we know we're overdoing something, only we can decide to stop. Official finger-wagging achieves little.

If the government really want to help people, how about more practical support for people who want to kick serious addictions and personal problems? More rehab centres. More therapists. More social workers. Oh, but I forgot. The government is pruning all those "unproductive" activities as a cost-cutting measure.

But don't worry, folks. Just make sure you eat a bit more fruit and get your flu injection and everything will be fine.

Thanks to Suburbia for the idea

18 comments:

Rummuser said...

The advise givers, bureaucrats that is, have to justify their pay cheques Nick. Be compassionate. Just don't take their advise if you don't want to. I don't.

Nick said...

Ramana - They could justify their pay cheques by doing something more useful, except that politicians don't necessarily agree that therapy and rehab centres are useful.

Baino said...

I think much of the 'nannying' is a response to noisy minorities or a distraction from the 'real' political issues which I never understood. Squeaky wheels and all that. They make enough tax income from legal drugs anyway (cigarettes and alcohol). We're about to face a carbon tax which is really just a nannying way of refilling the depleted coffers after the current federal Government spent it's reserves. Very annoying. The real focus should be good economic management.

Macy said...

Hey, guess what? Amazing statistic number whatever and fifty five. All non smokers, all joggers, and all thin teetotal people die.

Once they've sorted out that wee snagette I might pay more attention..

secret agent woman said...

"If we ignored all this well-meaning advice and just followed our own instincts and common sense - which is what plenty of people do anyway - I doubt if we'd come to much harm." Seriously? How, then, do you explain the incredible rate of addictions and the climbing obesity rates? We can get all twisted up about how the research isn't crystal clear on the details, but we do know some basics about what we should be eating and what we should be abstaining from and whether we should be exercising. And since people's foolishness costs the tax payers, someone needs to be reminding them. And yes, as Macy suggests, "All non smokers, all joggers, and all thin teetotal people die." But smoking, inactive, fat drunks typically die a lot sooner.

Nick said...

Baino - I think what you're referring to is something a bit different. I'm thinking of the rather clumsy and inept way the government tries to improve our lifestyles.

Macy - Indeed, we all have to die of something. But the government's half-baked attempts to stop us killing ourselves prematurely are laughably ineffective.

Nick said...

Secret Agent - Sure, there are unhealthy lifestyles a-plenty that need to be changed, but the government's "let's all be a bit more sensible" approach just doesn't have much impact. It doesn't tackle the underlying motives for unhealthy behaviour. And it doesn't recognise that people will only change if they WANT to change. Which is why I think therapists like yourself would be more helpful.

Despite many years of all these government campaigns, there are just as many drug addicts and fatties and heavy drinkers. The "you could do better" tactic simply isn't working.

Wisewebwoman said...

So very, very few programmes are helpful in the fields of alcohol, drug and food addiction.
The substance is just the symptom, the inner demons need to be outed.
I don't see much success in the rehab/treatment centres unless there is follow-up. And aye, there's the rub.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

W3 - Very true, the substance is just the symptom, and it's the underlying personal failings that need to be addressed.

Megan said...

I prefer "inner demons" to "personal failings." ;)

Nick said...

Megan - But doesn't inner demons imply you can't do anything about them and you're doomed to hopeless addictions of one sort or another?

newjenny said...

The people of this country deserve a better electorate,

Nick said...

newjenny - That's a very cryptic comment. I think they deserve a better government. One that's serious about helping people with overwhelming problems.

secret agent woman said...

Yes, it's not enough. But still necessary. And I do think mental health ought to be funded enough for everyone to be able to use it.

Scarlet Blue said...

All the contradictions remind me of Orwell's 1984. Is the confusion deliberate?
Sx

Nick said...

Secret Agent - Absolutely, mental health should have much more funding so anyone who needs help can get it. But people have been saying that since I was a small boy!

Scarlet - No, I don't think it's deliberate, it's just that the experts aren't as expert as they like to make out. They misinterpret things and get things wrong the same as everyone else.

Grannymar said...

Nick, I have been listening to these know alls as long as you have. I decided long ago to plough my own furrow and take my chances. So far it has worked for me. I'll come back when I am ninety and let you know how I am doing! ;)

Nick said...

Grannymar - Yes, the experts probably think you're doing everything wrong, but as you say, it works for you. The experts aren't always as wise as they like to think.