"Not the Nanny State Government.” Really? asks Susan Ryder.
Spring has arrived bang on time in my part of the world with stunningly gorgeous weather; the sort of weather that makes you glad that you’re alive and kicking. Last weekend was just perfect so I spent much of it out and about, which is how I came to be at one of my favourite cafés last Sunday morning where our story opens.
One of life’s simplest pleasures is enjoying a leisurely drink in the sun while reading in a pleasant spot. I seldom buy newspapers or magazines; I’ve always preferred books. But I reserve the right to browse through New Zealand Home & Garden over coffee at the hairdresser’s. And when alone in a café I’ll often pick up the paper and have a look, if only to ruefully be reminded as to the pink hue of most journalists. But every so often there is something worth reading and being Fathers’ Day, I thought there might be one or two good stories related to that.
Wrong. Instead, I copped a finger-wagging from the Accident Compensation Corporation on behalf of all the DIY-Dads who’ve suffered accidental injuries over the past year. “These handymen are costing hundreds of millions of dollars in medical bills by putting up wobbly scaffolds, touching live wires and shooting themselves in the hands and feet with nail guns”, said ACC injury prevention team leader Ceri Davies. “If you are going to paint the house, make sure you have the equipment. You don't have to fall very far to have a life-changing accident." I can see why Mr Davies works for the government. He’s a bloody genius.
Numbers were spat out that were “higher than the road toll.” I held my breath and read on expecting the worst. I wasn’t disappointed. Evidently, the Bruces and Trevs are all set to be “targeted during safety week” in a campaign that started yesterday. It would seem that this Nanny State government has again forgotten that it’s not supposed to be a Nanny State government. I know that’s true because they told me they wouldn’t be back at the last election.
So I spurned the rest of the paper and tootled off.
Back in the car I struck the radio news bulletin and the first story was a suggestion for “the best Fathers’ Day present of them all”: a PSA check for prostate cancer. “Happy Fathers’ Day, Dad! We were all set to shout you a chainsaw, but the ACC said that you might hurt yourself, so have we got a surprise for you!!”
It will come as no surprise that the news report emanated from a press release from a medical organisation. So don’t be surprised to find them lobbying government next a la the subsidised insulation rort that is currently providing a windfall for that industry. There are few as smugly self-important as the corporate-welfare crusaders.
Which neatly brings me to the next part of this tale, (albeit somewhat Tarantinoesque in nature, hopping back to Friday night now, as we are). Hang in there; there is a point and I’m getting to it.
For many years I have not worked on Fridays; as such, it’s my favourite day to go the movies, which is right up there in my “Top Five” things to do on any given day. As noted once before in some long-forgotten rant, I go during the day when there is hardly anyone there. I sit right up the front in the middle so that I’m nearly in the film. (On four occasions I have been the only patron which is a near-perfect experience, but I digress).
After the film – (The Young Victoria: highly recommended, even from this non-monarchist, with the talented Emily Blunt and a wonderful supporting cast; gorgeously romantic and worth seeing for the costumes, let alone the political intrigue of the age) – I caught up with some friends I hadn’t seen for ages, that evolved into my staying to dinner.
Knowing that they voted National last year in order to oust the despised Clark government, I asked their current opinion of Guy Smiley. “Okay”, said Dan (not his real name).
“What’s alright about it?” I asked. “There’s no real difference; fewer lesbians, I suppose, but that’s about it. The size of government has barely changed.”
“Pragmatically, I think it’s smart that he hasn’t made any radical changes to date”, said Dan.
“But that doesn’t make sense”, I said. “Private sector jobs are disappearing every day. Who’s supposed to pay for it all?”
It’ll take too long to relay the conversation verbatim, but essentially Dan – in the private sector himself – thought that cutting government hard would result in massive numbers joining the dole queues; that he’d rather things chugged along largely unchanged whilst the economy was in the doldrums. He also thought it was sensible to guarantee banking investments right now, too, so that people didn’t have to worry about losing their savings on top of everything else. The “creation” of business as in the home insulation subsidisation was a short-term programme that would last a year or two and disappear, he admitted, but would at least provide some business in the interim.
I stared at him in disbelief, knowing him to be a general supporter of the free market and someone who recognises that true economic growth evolves from increased investment and productivity, as opposed to increased consumption.
I struggled with myself for a second before abandoning all pretence of rising above it. I pointed out the insanity of market interference and the Law of Unintended Consequences; that the investment game includes risk that sometimes doesn’t pay off; that subsidisation was a form of market distortion that results in producing more of what’s not wanted as per the US auto industry; that corporate welfare was just as immoral as social welfare and that Margaret Thatcher was correct when she said that the problem with socialism was that you eventually run out of other people’s money. “Well, you’re right about that” he said.
We had a great evening and I love Dan and Rachel (not her real name either) to bits. Like many, they work hard and are naturally concerned about their family’s future. But when will the penny drop that there is a connection between lobbying corporates and the latest ACC ad campaign? That socialism – of any stripe – doesn’t right wrongs and that it’s worth remembering just what it is that paves the road to hell.
In short, that the Nanny State doesn’t start with shower pressure and end with light bulbs.
* * Read Susan Ryder’s column here at NOT PC every Tuesday * *