Much has been made recently about the departure of British CNN Commentator Piers Morgan whose critics often painted as a zealot for too muck government, also referred to by its slang term “the nanny state.” Many of his detractors have rightly condemned his over zealous approach to gun control as an apology for excessive government. The slang term is itself of British origin, comparing overly powerful government to an intrusive nanny, and one that believes its subjects are in fact over-grown children, unable to make their own responsible decisions. While many on the political right like to accuse those on the left of such interference, conservative groups and individuals have been guilty of it as well. The nanny state specifically when it comes to truly private matters which affect no one outside the private cell, is always the wrong turn to take.
In recent years, liberal leaning politicians such as New York mayor Michael Bloomberg have introduced legislation meddling with people’s diet. Karen Harned, writing for Forbes Magazine states that Mayor Bloomberg decided to aggressively forward his idea of good living by regulation. From banning smoking and large soft drinks, to regulating sodium and trans fats. To be sure, trans fats, soft drinks, and cigarettes are not good for people; but it is up to an individual whether they want to engage, or allow their children to, not the government. The Democratic mayor pushed for, and received a ban on 20-ounce soft drinks on the grounds that they contained too much sugar. However, nothing stops a person from buying a 12-ounce soda at a gas station, and then driving a mile away and buying the same from another retailer.
As stated, the political right is not always innocent of turning the country toward the direction a nanny state either. John Stossel described the situation involving online gambling, and the charge by Arizona Republican John Kyl to oppose it. Meanwhile very left-leaning Democrat Barney Frank supported legalizing it. The infamous legislative wrong called Prohibition, in which the 18th Amendment prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol, was strongly advanced by religious organizations and the officials they helped to elect. Fortunately, once the government realized its inability to enforce such an unpopular code, its repeal via the 21st amendment became inevitable.
It is worth mentioning that over the decades, legal gun ownership was advocated by members of the left, as well as the right. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, leading members of the leftist Black Panther Party, spoke for the right of individuals to private gun ownership. The great British author and Socialist George Orwell did as well. Both Brit and Black Panther knew an in appropriate legislation when they saw one. Meanwhile, former Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan (while governor of California) at one time both opposed greater access to guns. Today f course, it is the left that seeks to reduce personal access to fire arms. Politicians are Politicians; the more power they can assert, the more many will.
Harned voices the exactly correct point; it would be fine if political leaders stopped at making well thought out suggestions. Again, cigarettes and giant Pepsi-colas are not exactly healthy. However, instead of merely offering ideas, certain politicians desire to control the decision-making rights of consumers because the individual is incapable of doing so. When people give the nanny state government the driver’s seat, whether it be a leftist banning too much sugar, or a rightist opposing on-line gambling, the country always takes the wrong turn.
Opinion by Ian Erickson