Power & Market

Agents of the Nanny State

The front door opens in a rush of air, followed by the muffled patter of shoe-less feet racing across the threshold and up the stairs. A mother seated at the kitchen table calls out, “Are you all done outside?” A chorus of yeses returns from the second floor. The mother smiles and returns to her work.

Moments later, her attention is disrupted by a purposeful rap on the door. She rises from her chair, wondering who that could be. As she walks the hall, a longer, more aggressive rap sounds. The mother, concerned now, opens the door to the squared-off shoulders and serious face of a neighbor. He extends his arm and opens his hand to an almost indiscernible reflection, “I just wanted to let you know I found this piece of glass in the street.”

Meet the nanny-dogooder. In this instance, he is someone who cannot believe a mother allows her children to run through yards, along sidewalks, and across streets without shoes. He regularly peers through a window and frets, “Does she not recognize the danger? Does she not care about her kids?”

Luckily, he thinks, at least he cares. In fact, he knows that without his interventions, children would get hurt, or worse. But he also knows he must be ever vigilant and always on guard – for the kids. Sleep, as C.S. Lewis noted, does not come easily to those like him.

The above is a true tale, similar to what I (and you?) have experienced. There was the neighbor exercised to despair because our children were playing in the rain. Fortunately for us, he related his concerns before injury occurred. Or the woman who staggered in shock after spying our teenage son riding a longboard down a slight incline. To her defense, she did call the sheriff in an attempt to have our son cease his dangerous display.

Then there was the man in plain clothes who flashed a paper claim to auxiliary status as an agent of the state. He was beside himself after encountering my wife holding our seventh child in a Walmart. Seems our choice of clothing for our son did not meet the man’s requirement for sufficiently layering – especially given the outside temperature was in the mid-60s. Though alleging to be a peace officer, he was anything but. I imagine he barely slept that night knowing we were not impressed by his vigorous appeal.

Covid revealed a number of personalities, with Lewis’s “omnipotent moral busybodies” being a regular and obvious one. These were the folks who claimed they masked for everyone else. Despite any proof that masking worked, they both paraded their masks and, either explicitly or implicitly, yelled, “Put a mask on.”

OK, so they are bores. Why not ignore them and move on? Simple, nanny-dogooders know the state is there for them – to hear their cries and address their concerns with force. And the state knows it needs the busybodies to champion its continual quest for power – to provide a semblance of legitimacy by having a Red Guard of sorts march the streets while shouting state slogans and ratting out those who dare to disobey.

Without the support of the nanny-dogooders, the state couldn’t have implemented it’s covid policies. Just as without the backing of those moral busybodies, the state couldn’t have positioned itself as the final authority in family matters. Agents of the state are ready to react to concerns a parent permits her child to run barefoot in an area where a shard of glass was found. And nanny-dogooders are anxiously pacing their kitchens debating whether to make the call.

It’s a symbiotic relationship that benefits both – and harms everyone else.

Life is a string of vagaries. As we are warned, “Accidents can happen.” And they will, but we have to accept them as a part of life or else we will never be free. A zero-accident life is as likely as zero-covid one. Yet, the state wants us to believe it can protect us from that which cannot be stopped. And, in the name of the latest zero-policy initiative, it’s willing to enact all manners of imposition and force.

Sure, if someone wants to live a life of self-imposed lockdowns in a quest for a personal, zero-covid, or zero-accidents, existence, have a go. It won’t work. But dragging us all into your dystopia will not make it work either – just check the graphs.

Let kids run without shoes, play in the rain, longboard faster than a walking pace, and breath the air – inside and outside – unmasked and unvaxxed. Keep your fears in your house and to yourself.

Live as you want to live and let us do the same. Don’t use the state against others or you may soon find the empowered state turning its searchlight on you.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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