The nanny state is a term that describes the overriding influence of a government or its policies on people’s freedom of choice. The term originated in the United Kingdom to describe the support for policies aimed to combat behaviors that depended on personal choice such as public smoking and eating junk food. In the past decade, the term has been introduced into the politics of the United States by critics of certain policies that have been passed by state governments. Numerous laws and regulations have been enacted that overregulate people’s lives about their health and lifestyle choices. The government should not protect its citizens to the extent that it compromises their freedom that is protected by the constitution.
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Many jurisdictions have been criticized for passing nanny state laws that infringe on people’s rights. The state of San Francisco has a law that details how owners of pets are supposed to take care of the dogs (Blanco, 2017). According to the law, dogs must be offered water in a non-spill bowl under a shade and they must be served with wholesome food that is palatable and nutritious. Governments need to enact laws that protect the welfare of animals.
However, dictating the size and type of bowls as well as the type of food to be offered to dogs is overregulation. Any individual who is found guilty of contravening these laws is punished by a fine and a jail sentence of up to one year. The City of New York banned trans fats in restaurants in 2006, and the injunction affected many businesses including delivery, catering, and take-out services (Sunstein, 2014). The type of food a person prefers to eat should be a personal choice that ought not to be monitored or controlled by any law. Laws such as banning big gulp drinks and trans fats are not necessary because people are supposed to choose to include or exclude them from their diets (Blanco, 2017).
They should be allowed to make choices that they feel are good for their health and wellbeing. According to Sunstein (2014), “freedom of choice should be overridden or compromised rarely and if at all, only for the most compelling reasons.” Banning smoking in public places, prohibiting hand-held phones while driving, and criminalizing texting while jaywalking are infringing on people’s rights (Sustain, 2014). In Minnetonka, Minnesota, it is illegal to have a muddy car while in the state of San Francisco, households and businesses are required to have three bins for different waste materials.
One of the roles of governments is to regulate the activities of individuals and businesses to enhance harmony, conserve the environment, and improve society’s welfare. “People dislike it when government interferes with their choices, and when it does so, they experience a loss in welfare.” (Sunstein, 2014). Certain laws are oppressive and unnecessary because they compromise liberty, solidarity, and responsibility.
Citizens have sufficient knowledge to make informed decisions regarding their health, choice of dress, and behavior. The government does not possess enough information on its citizens to make decisions that control their interests, desires, and values. Nanny state laws harm the person by denying them the right to choose how to live. Each citizen is responsible for their own decisions and the corresponding consequences. Therefore, extreme government regulation through nanny state laws is unnecessary.
Blanco, B. (2017). Why liberty and the nanny state are incompatible. Web.
Sunstein, C. R. (2014). Simpler: The future of government. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.