The next time someone uses the phrase “Nanny State” in your presence, I recommend that you pop him sharply in the nose.
Why this sudden turn to violence? And why with a gender-specific direct object? Well (second things first), because the above-mentioned phrase is almost always used by males, and those males want to make their ideological foes feel like a bunch of weenies for relying on an entity that is just like a Nanny except that it is a complex of interlocking bureaucracies and does not have a soft, comforting bosom.
“Nanny State” is one of those phrases that just sits there and spews out dishonesty the way a stinkbug spews out stink. In this regard it is similar to other lie-o-matic phrases like “liberal media” and “strong defense.”
Liberal media: Yes, we are asked to believe that the mainstream media, which is owned and controlled by capitalists, is liberal.
Strong defense: We are supposed to believe that the way to have a “strong” defense is to burden ourselves with debt by pouring money into the Pentagon until our economy becomes like unto a gleaming, top-heavy, weapon-wielding statue that totters shakily on feet of clay.
But back to Nanny State. It is a widespread conservative belief that liberals want to be taken care of or “coddled” by the state. Of course, conservatives at the same time seem to believe that the state is an evil, dictatorial entity that will have a death panel snuff out Grandma's life as soon as she starts acting a bit forgetful.
I’m having a little trouble reconciling the conservatives’ Evil Death Panel state with their Coddling Nanny State. I suspect that they just hate the government and will say anything they can to encourage other people to hate it, and that’s why they randomly make stuff up about it. But never mind. Instead of trying to sort out the confusion in conservative ideology, let’s take a look at what the liberals I know believe about the state.
First of all, we believe that the Constitution is a good thing, and that it has been improved by such amendments as those abolishing slavery and expanding voting rights. We believe that we are better off when the rules governing our everyday lives are in the hands of elected representatives instead of being in the hands of those wielders of great wealth who traditionally called the shots in everyone’s lives. We believe, in other words, that conservatives are wrong to say we should weaken government so that BP, RJ Reynolds and ExxonMobil can decide what the rules are instead of our elected representatives.
A good way to get a sense of what our lives would be like were government to be suddenly made “small,” is to take a quick look at Doug Amy’s website Government is Good. (Now out in book form!)
The conservative myth holds that Americans should take care of themselves, just as we did in “the old days,” and not rely on the Nanny State. By this reasoning, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, in the “old days,” individual Americans reached for their household arms and booked flights to Asia to fight the Japanese, not waiting for the stupid old Nanny State with its Army, Navy and Marines to take care of us.
Yeah, those were the good old days. When government was small and we were free to take care of ourselves.
The essence of liberal ideology is the idea that we Americans should be looking out for each other, and the best way to do this is through the instruments of democratic government. Whether the issue is going to war against those who attack us, or fighting back against a horrendous economic downturn, we will have more success if we take on these problems as a nation rather than expecting that each individual can solve these problems on her or his own.
Remember, by working together as a nation and pooling our resources, we virtually wiped out the horrifying, soul-crushing poverty that haunted the lives of the elderly in the 1930s. Thank you Social Security Administration. And, by the way, thank you again SSA for managing trillions and trillions of dollars for millions of Americans over the decades without a single serious incident of systemic fraud or corruption.
Hmm, I wonder if BP, Halliburton, Enron, Citibank, and the other champions of conservatism match that record.
Anyway, next time your hear the phrase “Nanny State,” you know what to do.
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