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Social Affairs Today’s UK: Nanny State or Brutal Dictatorship?

Every year the same routine arises in January. Most people (not all, but many of us) use the time of year to make ‘New Year Resolutions’ as we determine to try and be better, or to give up something that does us no good. To try and lead more worthy lives.

This is of course, very laudable and a new year without the resolutions probably wouldn’t be a new year but again for most of us, that firm resolve doesn’t last very long and we soon slip back into whatever habits we had throughout the old year, the determination soon forgotten. There is however, one resolution we should make and one that everybody should stick to. It is a resolution that will, if we keep it, have a far-reaching and positive effect on everybody and the country in which we live.

It is also a very simple one although far from easy. There is, as I have pointed out before in other commentary elsewhere, a very big difference between ‘simple’ and ‘easy’.

The resolution is this; that we must, collectively as well as in our own personal lives, put a stop to the insidious creep of government regulation and state interference in our lives. That we must remember that the government and all its institutions, including the civil service, are not our masters. We, the people, are theirs and they exist to serve us. Not the other way around and we must remind the government of that and frequently.

Freedom is something I have a thing about. This is probably, is part at least, a result of my upbringing, spent as it was in a British Military environment, my teenage years looking – metaphorically speaking – across the border between west and east, wondering if the cold war might become a hot one, with me and my schoolmates in the front line along with our parents, the soldiers and air crews that were stationed in what was West Germany. I have to add of course, that my Father was not in either service, being a programme presenter and producer with the British Services Broadcasting Service (BFBS) but he and his colleagues, along with their families, were still in the same front line, still serving and my dad, like all those who worked alongside him, would have also been the first line of communication when it came to telling people what to do and where to go if things went badly.

The difference however, between BFBS giving instructions to listeners and today’s edicts from our elected representatives, is that lives would really have depended on it. If the former USSR had mounted an invasion of the west, and a conventional war begun, we would have relied on BFBS, with well-established military procedures about which little is known even today, to evacuate back to the UK and what we hoped would be safety – at least for the wives and kids.

That difference becomes ever more marked as we read and hear almost daily of new ‘initiatives’ from some government body or other telling us what we must eat, how we must live our lives and all for the common good. Yet ‘the common good’ is a principle that, while it has some merit, is also one of the foundations of what the divide between west and east was all about; the ability, as free citizens to live our lives as we wish and without undue interference from the state. Unlike the citizens of the old Soviet Union, all of whom had every aspect of their existence controlled by the state, we in the UK could do as we please.

The philosopher John Stuart Mill made the point in exemplary fashion in his 1859 essay On Liberty. Mill’s primary point was that unless we intend to do harm to others we should be free to act without interference. Yet today, in 2019, more and more restrictions are either in place or are proposed – and we, the ordinary citizen, are given no say. Take one recent example, that of Public Health England (PHE), a quango that increasingly hands out instructions on anything and everything, however remotely connected with health it may be. PHE has suggested that the state dictates to us what the size of food portions in restaurants and supermarkets should be so we don’t eat too much and get fat. In other words, the sizes must be reduced.

There is written there of course, another edict; I’m not supposed to use the word ‘fat’ in case it upsets somebody who, according to yet another recent diktat, is overweight because they are suffering from a disease, that of obesity. The Royal College of Physicians wants obesity to be classified as a disease rather than an often self-imposed result of simply eating too much and not taking any exercise. I must point out here that there are indeed some people whose size is the result of factors over which they have little control but the fact is that two-thirds of adults and one-third of children in the UK today are fatter than they should be because the amount of energy that they put into their bodies – as food – exceeds the amount of energy they expend, so this excess is stored by their bodies as fat. In other words, they eat too much and don’t take enough exercise - but they aren’t suffering from a disease that they are powerless to prevent.

The nanny state however, with our meek acquiescence, is becoming close to a brutal dictatorship and is not confining itself to advising us on what to do – it is telling us. And that is the part that needs to be dealt with.

The principles described above may well refer to how much we eat but are applied to an ever-increasing amount of our everyday lives – and it us, the people, that need to wake up and do something about it. The erosion of freedom is a thread that runs throughout my book ‘Comments of a Common Man’ and if you have not yet acquired a copy I make no apologies for continually referring to it until you do. It is that book that represents my way of saying something (as is this column) on life today. It is at least, an attempt to do something rather than nothing. It helps however, if people read it.

Just as it helps if more people resist the temptation to say nothing to those they elect as their MP. As I say in my book, you gave your MP his or her job; they are responsible to you. You are their boss. You have the power therefore to demand that they act to restrain both themselves and those other bodies that government gives authority to, like PHE.

So make your new year resolution and ask yourself how much of your precious freedom is at risk. The answer is a disturbingly large amount of it.

© Kevan James 2019.

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