Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Nanny State

"In fact, safety has no place anywhere. Everything that's fun in life is dangerous. Horse races, for instance, are very dangerous. But attempt to design a safe horse and the result is a cow (an appalling animal to watch at the trotters.) And everything that isn't fun is dangerous too. It is impossible to be alive and safe." P J O'Rourke

The amalgamation of the English and Welsh police forces is a classic case of the "Something must be Done" mentality. The idea is that the smaller police forces- never mind that most of them are doing a very good job- could not cope with the theoretical problem of a terrorist attack on their patch. This is nonsense. One of the smallest forces in the UK: Dumfries and Galloway were able to pursue the case against the Lockerbie bombers to a successful prosecution- the largest man hunt in British police history.

In fact this is an example of the nanny state- mostly this is "something must be done about X" and occurs after a highly unlikely accident. The hysteria of the "War on Terror" that is giving an over mighty state the right to abridge our liberties now seems set to undermine the efficiency and local nature of our police forces. This is weak kneed. The price of such an approach is to reduce the moral hazard of our whole society. If things go wrong, sometimes it is just an accident- but increasingly our legal system is determined to make a buck. Suing after accidents has distorted our medical system- now few are willing to take on the role of Obstetrician since the risk of being sued is now so high. The costs of ever more intrusive and absurd safety requirements is driving once profitable British businesses into bankruptcy.

Life should contain some risks- all of us have an unwritten expiration date on our birth certificate. The key is the find a balance- the "something must be done" brigade are driving our society to expect the impossible: complete safety, and to sue when this is not the case. The price is unresponsive police forces, absurd safety instructions and intrusive regulation.

Life is dangerous- that is why it is precious, and fun. A safe life would be as dull as [fill in your choice of dullness here]

1 comment:

MatGB said...

Well said sir, well said.

I especially like the expiration date bit. Incidentally, I was quoting your namesake today; didn't actually realise Lorem Ipsum was mangled Cicero...