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The “Nannification of America"

Most of us at one time or another have commented upon the growing Nanny State. Now there’s a book out with that title although the subtitle is explanatory, but quite long. Bill Stiegerwald, associate editor at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review interviews the author, David Harsanyi, which is posted at Townhall.com. Here’s the essence of the book:

Q: What’s “Nanny State” about?

“A: It’s about the difference between coercing someone to do the right thing and convincing them to do the right thing. In the Nanny State, we coerce them -- or the government does, at least. All these intrusions -- what we eat, what we smoke, what we watch -- one by one they don’t seem like they are much. But when you bundle them together, you have a movement, and a movement that undermines our freedoms. That’s what the book’s about. ”

Midway through, the interview gets to the author’s primary concern:

Q: It’s innocent, I guess, on the local level as long as you can move to another town. But at some point….

“A: Where do you move now? It’s happening everywhere. Colorado Springs is a conservative place, maybe one of the most conservative places in the country. They have schools that just banned tag, because some kid would have to be “it.” That’s a whole different area. We get the kids started early: this is politically correct not to have someone be “it” or someone chasing someone else.

“People keep giving me the example about the frog in a pot and you just keep incrementally putting up the heat and then it’s boiling and frog doesn’t even know it. I think we’re almost there. But I don’t see any stop to it, because it’s hard for a politician to get up and defend tobacco, or strippers, or drinking and all those things, even though the underlying argument obviously is freedom of choice and individual choice. But what we’re doing is creating a nation of dependents. Not just as far as welfare programs go, but as far as people believing that government should always protect them, from Katrina all the way down to a kid playing tag. And it’s dangerous. ”

David Boaz of the Cato Institute has an interesting observation in response to the book review, which was reviewed in today’s Washington Post. Boaz writes at Cato at Liberty:

Open the newspaper on any random page, and you can find evidence of the growing tendency to meddle in our lives: seat-belt laws, smoking bans, trans-fat bans, potty parity, and on and on. But are those things worse than the older laws that Allen cites? And if you go back further than she did, you can find worse indignities: established churches, slavery, married women denied property rights. So while we should deplore the deprivations of freedom that Harsanyi explores, we should not necessarily conclude that we’re progressively less free.


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