Friday 8 January 2010

The battle royale

One of Simon Heffer's predictions for the decade ahead is that, by 2019, "alcohol will have been accorded the pariah status of tobacco". 

A more optimistic outcome is forecast by Patrick Basham who, on the BBC's World Service, predicts a "battle royale over the fate of the bully state" with the neo-prohibitionists coming out second best.

Bully staters don't want us to smoke cigarettes, gamble, drink alcohol or gain weight so they'll ratchet up the campaign to shame and coerce those who rejoice in the individual's right to pursue - dare I say it - pleasure.

Under the bully state, the real bully is nanny the policy nurse who dispenses regulatory cures for all manner of alleged social ills from smoking to simply having fun. 

Thankfully, there will be dramatic growth in people's unwillingness to be bullied out of, and into, certain habits.  This will create an opportunity for the first politician who stands in front of the bully state's regulatory march yelling "stop!"

By the end of the decade, most Americans - and, I strongly suspect, most Britains too - will be actively rebelling against their respective ministry of the domestic bully.

Will a politician spot the gap in the market for less state interference? I'm not sure. Ronald Reagan once said: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" It's hard to imagine any of the current crop acknowledging the limitations of government in this way, let alone mocking it. But then Reagan wasn't a career politician. He'd had a life outside politics and could see government from the perspective of an outsider.

One of the problems, I think, with the rise of the career politician is that it has created a distinct political class that is convinced that it is right and the public are wrong. Politicians are often accused of being out of touch. The political class know they are out of touch but carry on regardless because they believe they are inherently wiser than the electorate. They view going against public opinion as courageous - evidence of strong leadership - where once, perhaps, it would have been seen as an affront to democracy. As a consequence, politicians often appear to be at war with their own people. 

This has to be unsustainable. I hope Patrick is right when he predicts that someone will stand up and say "stop!" But that would require a politician prepared to sacrifice power and hand it back to the individual. At the moment, the political class have no doubt that they would use that power more wisely themselves. Until such a politician emerges, I expect to see more votes going to fringe parties.

Listen to all Basham's predictions here. You can read his latest publication, the impeccably argued and eminently rational Are Public Smoking Bans Necessary? here.


Anonymous said...

The huge new influx, caused by the expenses scandal, of new MPs, less confident in voicing their opinions and more malleable by the current Health Nazis in the Government, will make resistance more difficult.

Curmudgeon said...

The problem with modern-day politicians is that they seem to believe they need to "sell" their parties and policies to the electorate in a manner akin to marketing consumer products, rather than actually representing the views of the electors. It's all the wrong way round.

Mark Wadsworth said...

By 2019? The Heff is a cock-eyed optimist, methinks.

Plus, from the point of view of the politico's, we are the ones who are out of touch.

Anonymous said...

The general public are screwed...