Friday, June 16, 2006

You're the one for me, fatty

It was Ronald Reagan who said "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I’m from the government and I’m here to help'". Then again, he also said that trees cause more pollution than cars and once raised a toast to "Prince Charles and Princess David", so you can’t go along with everything he said. But on the point about the government, I tend to agree.

So alarm bells have been ringing this week as our government again acts beyond its remit and starts trying to (s)mother us with parental concern. They know best, you see. We’re all far too stupid and poorly educated to make our own decisions. No matter! Let the government do our thinking for us!

First there was the 'Dad Pack'. Distributed by a group called Fathers Direct, but funded with taxpayer money, it’s a guidebook aimed at new dads, dispensing some truly invaluable advice: never drop your baby into a tub of hot fat, don’t leave your offspring unattended with wolves, don’t bring up your child with Latin as their first language, tell them to steer clear of houses made of gingerbread, etc. Patronising rubbish, a waste of money and, to paraphrase Basil Fawlty, an exercise in the bleedin' obvious.

Now, in an effort to curb Britain’s growing obesity crisis, Super Government™ is stepping in again, with plans to restrict when and where certain food products can be advertised, and proposing a 9pm watershed for the advertising of junk food. Sounds unworkable, expensive and endlessly bureaucratic (who defines what is and what isn’t "junk" food anyway? A government department, presumably. The Ministry of Meddling Do-Gooders, perhaps?). A perfect government initiative then. Ironic, too, that the people bleating about the abundance of fat children are the very same people who have sat back and allowed local authorities to sell off vast amounts of school playing fields over the last nine years.

I don’t want to be too cynical. I’m sure that their motives are essentially good. However, I would make two points. Firstly, it is not the government’s business what we eat, drink or smoke; nor when, why, how or where we do it. Secondly, when it comes to any sort of public initiative, the government are about as effective as a one-legged man at an arse kicking competition.

Fix the health service, fight crime, sort out the prisons, give us better schools. But don’t tell us how to live our lives or raise our children. You are the government and you are removable. You are not our mother.

As George Orwell said in 1984: If you want a vision of the future, imagine an over-protective nanny wagging a finger in your face and saying "you can't do that, you shouldn't drink this, you mustn't watch that" - forever.


Anonymous said...

Curbing adverts for junk food IS fixing the health service.

Citizen Sane said...

Only if you believe that targeting the advertisement of junk food will make any difference to the nation's health. Even if it did, it would be negligible.

Devil's Advocate said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't countries that already have this regulation have lower rates of obesity (Sweden?). I'm not one for excessive regulation, but obesity is about to become a bigger killer than smoking. True, it's not necessarily the government's business to tell people how they live their lives, but obesity does impact on public funds.

In any case, if there was no government interference, smoking would be far cheaper, and that is something that is only legal for over 16's - yet most people do not disagree with higher taxes on fags and the forthcoming prohibition in enclosed public places. The proposed junk food ban is directed primarilty at kids, and surely they are far more susceptible to the undoubtedly sly and often agressive marketing campaigns of McDonalds and the like?

Citizen Sane said...

I know - I'm being extremely facetious. But I do think there is a valid point to be made here about excessive regulation.

The time and money would be better used overhauling the school dinner system (which was promised over a year ago in response to the success of Jamie Oliver's TV show and campaign - it's all gone very quiet now though hasn't it?) which quite literally feeds our kids shit on a daily basis. It would also be better spent by providing more money for the funding of school sports and maybe lessons on diet and nutrition as part of the curriculum. Simply curbing the advertising won't be enough in itself to change anything.

In my humble opinion.

mAc Chaos said...

It's not the government's job to determine what we should eat.

Citizen Sane said...

What about drugs? And if so, why?

What is the difference between the government warning you not to eat cheeseburgers and forbidding you from taking certain banned substances? After all, obesity is set to become a bigger killer than drugs, drink or cigarettes. . .

Devil's Advocate said...

I think the key for me is marketing at children. Let's not kid ourselves; as someone who has, for my sins, worked in FMCG, the marketing tactics they employ are aggressive to say the least.

As for drugs, I'd support the continued prohibition of some class A drugs as they are known to have an effect above and beyond (in many cases) those who take them.

tafka PP said...

So next time I polish off a massive bar of chocolate, I'll need to be worried that the British Ambassador to come and haul me off, then?

Citizen Sane said...

"If anyone here works in marketing or advertising. . . kill yourself."

TAFKA PP - tell me about it. The other day I had a fry up, followed by coffee and cigarettes. Ten minutes later, who should turn up at my door? Patricia Hewitt! Backed up with heavies from the Department of Health.

Devil's Advocate said...

I think this blog should be re-named 'Neo-con Elite'... :)

Citizen Sane said...

Indeed. I've been thinking lately that a name change might be appropriate. Perhaps 'Libertarian Elite'?

Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) said...

Patronising rubbish, a waste of money and, to paraphrase Basil Fawlty, an exercise in the bleedin' obvious. must be new to this planet. Half the reason society's in such bad shape is because so many people manage to miss the bleedin' obvious. Things like "smoking five packs of cigarettes a day can lead to lung cancer", "don't drill holes in your head", or "don't use a conveyer belt going into a furnace as a treadmill for fitness".

H said...


Sane, This is actually libertarianism "gawn mad". The rejoinder I wanted to make to your post is - why the hell should there be a National Health Service? Or why should the government have anything to do with the education system - why aren't both privatised? As soon as the government takes it upon themselves to provide these services, they need to .... (Hold your ears, I am going to say the evil, anti-libertarian "T" word) TAX us. Why should we pay any taxes? Aren't taxes theft? And shouldn't we let the poor and disabled and disadvantaged die in poverty squalor and filth, while we the fortunate get rich? Isn't that the nature of society?

As long as the government does take responsibility for the health of the nation, it has a right to use its resources to best protect the health of the nation and the national health service which does that job. If the government believes that child obesity is the next threat to the health service (bear in mind that the no. 1 enemy at the moment is still fags - with non-smokers paying huge taxes so that smokers can get treated for free for the diseases which are caused by their filthy habit - and don't tell me the tax on fags covers it, it doesn't), then the government has the right to try and stop people getting obese and therefore using up the resources of the service.

By the way - it is one thing to distort Orwell's quote, but if you then link to the original it is quite obvious that you distorted it. Orwell - while writing cogently about the possible abuses of authoritarian government, was actually a committed socialist (authoritarian, anti-libertarian).

Keep up the good writing - you maybe slipping dangerously into Thatcherite raegonomics, but you are a great read.



Citizen Sane said...

You make some salient points about the health service. My point is really to bemoan yet another government drive, rather than belittle the objective. If anything, my biggest grief is with the British public generally. There shouldn't be a need for the government to spell out the obvious: people's diets shouldn't be so terrible in the first place. The nefarious tactics of the confectionery and fast food companies should be not be as powerful as the forces of common sense and responsible parenting. Don't bring up your kids on lard sandwiches and additive-ridden sugar water. Take some exercise occasionally. Don't put butter in your coffee. It's so simple.

As for the Orwell quote, I linked to the original lest anyone not be familiar with it - I thought it was a cheeky take on the premise of his novel (although a slightly incongruous one). He was indeed a committed socialist - who wouldn't have been after the Depression, fighting fascists in Spain and nearly six years of war with the Nazis?

Thanks for the compliment by the way. Glad you enjoy, and I appreciate your counter arguments.