The Nanny State Economics

Some of you may know Jon Keller.  He is an editorial reporter on WBZ4 Boston (aka CBS Boston).  Jon is a great reporter and does a great job articulating his points and opinions and is not a pundit.  Whether or not you agree with him or not doesn’t matter; at the end of the conversation, you will at least understand his POV.

This morning on http://www.wbztv.com, Jon posted an article that I just think is brilliant (the link is here: http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/04/20/keller-large-nanny-state-overkill/ ).  While the article itself is great, I’d like to call the reader’s attention to one particular sentence that stands out from the rest:

…But if you start classifying the ordinary, harmless games of childhood as “risky,” and adding to the cost of opportunities for kids to play them by burying camps in red tape and licensing fees, isn’t that going to make the obesity problem worse?

Jon, you are absolutely correct.  Whether or not he meant to, Jon has proven a great economic point: if you raise the cost of an activity, you will discourage it’s practice.  In this particular case, he was discussing a bill in front of the New York State Legislature that would have required indoor day camps to pay fees to the state to offer suck “risky” activities as tag, dodgeball, flag football, capture the flag, and wiffleball (the bill was eventually dropped).  The State has also blocked such sweet treats as fluff and chocolate milk from being served at camps in order to fight obesity.  By increasing the costs of playing, the State is fighting their own efforts to combat obesity.

This, of course, brings up the major problem with the “nanny state.”  With the right hand, the State pays for activities it shuns with the left.  Here, the state shuns obesity and punishes those who play, both under the guise of “it’s good for you.”  You can also see this in the corn industry: the government gives major subsidies to corn farmers, which in turn makes corn syrup cheaper, much to the decry of the government that it causes obesity.  The nanny state inherently leads to conflicts within itself.

No one is saying here that one cannot get injured while playing wiffleball.  But what we are saying is that all of us are able to make decisions on our own (or, if we are minors, we have parents who do that for us).  It is time for the nanny state to take a good, hard look at itself and for us to say to the government that yes, we are adults and can choose our own future.

Of course, the other problem with the nanny state is that, when the government is always telling you what to do and how to act, your common sense shuts off as evidenced by the Chernobyl disaster:

Because of the inaccurate low readings, the reactor crew chief Alexander Akimov assumed that the reactor was intact. The evidence of pieces of graphite and reactor fuel lying around the building was ignored, and the readings of another dosimeter brought in by 04:30 were dismissed under the assumption that the new dosimeter must have been defective.*

*Medvedev, Zhores A. (1990).The Legacy of Chernobyl (paperback ed.). W. W. Norton & Company.

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