. . . "A Point of View: In defence of the nanny state" by Alain de Botton. The point of this strange collection of ramblings that the author tries to sell as "a point of view" is to suggest that you only become a mature human being when you welcome the attempts of others (in this case, the benevolent government) to infantilize you:
It is perhaps in the end a sign of immaturity to object too strenuously to sometimes being treated like a child. Why does the idea of a nanny state always have to be so terrifying? The libertarian obsession with freedom ignores how much of our original childhood need for constraint endures within us, and therefore how much we stand to learn from certain paternalistic strategies. It is not much fun, nor ultimately even very freeing, to be left alone to do entirely as one pleases.
The central idea here is nothing new. Playing the role of an eternal child is pleasant and fun. Who the hell needs to shoulder the burdens of adulthood, make one's own choices, and bear the consequences? Let's abdicate our responsibilities to somebody else.
The article offers two very strange arguments as to why the government (which is presented here as an all-powerful benevolent entity, which is truly God-like in its drive to improve the fallible and weak human beings) should "dare to exhort us to act well." The first argument is that religions have traditionally imposed a long set of rules and regulations on people. They even have rules about sex. To make this extremely complex idea even clearer to us, the childlike, unintelligent readers who need to be patronized at all times, the article here offers a photo of a kissing couple with the caption: "Religions have rules about sex."
The next argument as to why freedom from governmental intrusion is a silly thing to which one could aspire is the existence of advertisement. TV commercials and billboards exhort us to do bad things (here the author is kind enough to provide two ready examples of such bad things: eating crisps and buying cars), then there should be a competing source of propaganda (the government) to tell us to be nice and
forgive others, don't be mean about people you envy, dare to apologise, be slow to anger.
The author of the article never elucidates which government on this planet can convincingly promote such a message. Apparently, he believes that our childish brains are not ready yet for the information of such degree of complexity.
I think that everybody who has read this blog for any amount of time knows that I'm not a libertarian. Still, you don't have to be one to realize that the argument offered in Botton's article cannot withstand even the slightest scrutiny. Governments teaching people not to be mean and angry in order to counteract the deleterious influence of potato chips commercials is an idea that only a journalist who thoroughly despises his readers could have devised. If Botton's article is an example of the kind of paternalistic attitude he promotes, then I'll have to pass on it. Something tells me that most other people will also fail to welcome either Botton or the government assuming the role of morality police in their lives.