I have written often about the nanny state zealots who want to control all the actions of people rather than provide them with information and also allow them to make choices. Australia has the dubious distinction of being a world leader in nannying and nagging.
But there is some good news. A senate inquiry is underway to examine laws that restrict personal choice for the individuals own good.
There are two major problems with the advance of the nanny state. First it infantilizes adults and places the state in the role of parent. How ridiculous. But maybe, just maybe, one could accept this to a point if the state and its expert advisors were right in what they say. More often that no they are wrong.
The best example of this is advice to eat low fat foods. It has been now clearly shown that this was not only wrong but has led to worse health outcomes. New laws in New South Wales to ban smoking in outdoor meal areas have led to bars stopping serving meals, hence people can’t eat whilst having a drink. This will create far more problems than it solves. Those who don’t want to be in a smoky area could already go elsewhere, either within the establishment or to another one.
Compulsory cycle helmets have not been shown to reduce injury and may even make bike “accidents “ more likely. They also discourage people from riding a bike and hence exercising. Bike hire is popular with tourists in European cities without helmet laws. In Australia the bikes gather dust.
European cities also have the vibrancy of outdoor eating and noise is allowed to be made by musicians and people enjoying themselves. But as we know, the nanny state here sought to ban the Opera Carmen due to its depiction of smoking!
One council has banned “junk food” in its parks. What constitutes junk food is the first question. And on what basis is a council telling parents what they can feed their child?
Attempts to ban smoking in prisons (where up to 80% of inmates smoke) lead to riots, as one might expect. In the bad old days prisoners were allowed one last cigarette! And plans to ban smoking in psychiatric hospitals (again where the percentage of smokers is high) are cruel.
The rationale behind the nanny state is that if we were all good boys and girls we will live longer. Blues legend Joe Cocker passed on shortly before Christmas from lung cancer aged 70. For a hard living rocker this is not a bad innings. Simon Chapman from the University of Sydney noted on the Conversation that he had missed ten years of life due to smoking.
This may be quite true as the average life expectancy for the British male is 80. The question though is whether or not a man like Cocker would trade in his “hard living” rocker lifestyle to have an extra ten years of life.
Some people would rather play hard and live a shorter life. This may or may not suit others. And therein lies the key. It is not for anyone else to tell a person how to live their life. Some may value extra potential years and be happy to take fewer risks with their health. Others place enjoyment of today higher and care less about the consequences.
Most of us will take a middle path, albeit closer to one end of the spectrum or the other. And be prepared to take some risks but not others according to our talents, likes and perceived reward/risk ratio.
But there is no absolute right or wrong. It is about personal priorities. This is ultimately what the zealots do not get – that not every person shares their quest for a totally risk averse life in a plastic bubble. A life where all decisions are made through a prism of whether some action will extend or shorten life.
It is great to live a long and healthy life. But to some this is not an aspiration. This needs to be respected.
Given how often the “experts” are wrong, it is time for them to butt out of our lives.
Being authentic to what one holds to be important in life is the key. It is good to have our health as a major consideration. Ultimately how we live life though is our choice. It is not up to others, no matter how well meaning, to interfere.
This article first appeared on www.drjoetoday.com