Life in the nanny state

I was reading Rick Steves’ Italy 2011 (the 2010) version, when I was surprised to learn this little fact on page 21:

Because Europeans are generally careful with energy use, you’ll find government-enforced limits on air-conditioning and heating.  There’s a one-month period each spring and fall when neither is allowed.

For those of us in Marin who have been fussing about PG&E installing smart meters on their houses (something that happened to our house, will she nil she), that little paragraph is a stark harbinger of the future in the nanny state.

If you need any further reminder of what it’s like to have the government make all your decisions for you, Bruce Bawer chimes in with this one:

In Norway, all wine and spirits are sold in government-owned stores dedicated strictly to that purpose.  The stores — which collectively are known by the cozy name vinmonopolet, or “the wine monopoly” — are open from 10 to 6 on weekdays and 10 to 3 on Saturdays. They’re closed on Sundays and on all sorts of holidays. Around Christmas and Easter they’re closed for days at a stretch.

The number of stores is limited, determined not by market demand but, in good socialist fashion, by government fiat. In Oslo, a sprawling city with a population of over half a million, there are only 26 stores. And the prices — thanks to taxes designed to discourage potential customers and punish those who do buy — are the world’s highest. Norwegians go to Sweden to purchase cheaper intoxicants than they can get at home – and for the same reason Swedes go to Denmark, Danes to Germany, and Germans to Italy.

The Democrats are working on a similar situation, not with alcohol, but with food itself.  Michelle Obama’s obesity crusade isn’t about self-control, it’s about government control.  Mayor Bloomberg has already given New Yorker’s a taste for this kind of medicine:

Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle draws our attention to the fawning coverage Politico reporter Amy Parnes gives to Michelle Obama’s crusade against obesity. Parnes. Boyle argues, might as well be regarded as an unpaid press agent on the First Lady’s behalf. Parnes in particular wants to criticize conservatives who have taken aim at the First Lady’s self-chosen cause as another manifestation of the nanny state. But who can deny that the authoritarian left has our menus in its gunsights? From Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on transfats and war on salt in New York City to bans on sodas and other treats in public schools to the documentaries and pressure groups attacking McDonald’s, is the idea of extending government regulation to our food choices that far-fetched? Our nannies have already proposed taxing certain politically-incorrect foods at a higher rate. And if they come for our donuts, won’t our guns be next?

I’ll leave you to contemplate the irony of our gluttonous first lady, the one who dines in fatty style wherever she goes, attempting to control American eating habits.

Many years ago, one of my first slow steps across the Rubicon happened when, in 1979, I met a Russian woman who had managed to immigrate here because she fell in love with an American exchange student studying in Moscow.  The thing that struck her most was the choice in stores.  Russian stores had no choice.  You bought what the government made available.  In America, you bought what the market made available.  She would amuse herself by going into Safeway and just standing there, drinking it in.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

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  • Indigo Red

    Californians may be crossing borders for alcohol if the State Board of Equalization gets it’s way and increases selected wine taxes 1,550%.

    Wonder how my socialist leaning nephew employed by a very large wine distribution corporation will react to the losses in his near six-figure income.

  • Charles

    Slightly off topic, but the paragraph that you’ve quoted:

    “Because Europeans are generally careful with energy use, you’ll find government-enforced limits on air-conditioning and heating.”

    Shows why some folks wouldn’t have a career if it weren’t for your tax-payor supported PBS.  I find the above paragraph to be an oxymoron; or in the very least ambiguous.  If Europeans (i.e. citizens) are generally careful (i.e. conservationist) with energy use then there wouldn’t be a need for government restrictions.  Correct? 

    If he means European governments then he should say so.  He is such a PBS dork!

    On topic, “package” stores (i.e. government run liquor stores)have been the norm in some states for a long time.  How they determine where to open and what to sell I am not sure.  But they have been with us since the end of Prohibition; and it would be interesting to see if those states with state-run package stores are better off (i.e., less alcohol problems) than states without package stores.

    It is not just the war on unhealthy foods that is here.  I have asthma and instead of using a daily inhaler (something that all my doctors have been pushing with help from big pharma) I watch what I eat (certain foods trigger an attack), exercise, avoid things like smoke and other fumes (please keep your perfume away from me!) that can trigger an attack.

    I used to use an herbal tea (Breathe Easy) to control my mild asthma attacks.  It worked well and I didn’t have to worry about the long-term health affects of daily drugs.  However, several years ago the FDA banned the use of the active igredient, an herb – ma huang, in over-the-counter items.  So, while Breathe Easy is still on the market; it is useless to me.  I get the FDA’s reasoning for banning this item – some idiots were using it as a weight-loss supplement and then would try to do vigerous exercise, thereby giving themselves a heart-attack. But, I feel like I am being “punished” because of those idiots.

    The same is true with other nanny-state issues. (here in NJ, we have not been able to legally order fried eggs “sunny-side up” for years)

    Finally, with government control of food, I believe, that ultimately it will lead to unhealthy choices as eventually government law-makers will be “bribed” (i.e., lobbied) as to what can and cannot be sold.  Just like Obamacare there will be exceptions made.  And the little guy is the one who will be made to pay.

  • 11B40


    I grew up in the Bronx of the ’50s and ’60s. One of my regular excursions was getting drug down to Manhattan’s Herald Square by my mother to go shopping at Macy’s or the now-defunct Gimbel’s department stores. I always found a way to get to the TV department where there would be a wall of TV sets stacked up as they still do today in electronic stores. It would just overload my sensory inputs in a most pleasurable way.
    In the ’70s, I spent some time in the USSR, primarily in Murmansk. One day, a bunch of us went to the local GUM department store. When I asked about TVs, I was pointed to a cluttered corner where a smaller “portable” type TV sat on top of a floor (console?) model. I thought to myself, these guys are never going to take us over if this is their idea of a TV department.
    It didn’t really dawn on me for the next generation or so that they, the statists/socialists, didn’t really intend to take us over but to subvert us from within. I’m not currently in a very optimistic mood about the survival of of this thing of ours, this USofA. I think that we may well be approaching the end-game of the death of a thousand socialist cuts. Either we shake off this torpor induced by the continuing subversive attacks under the guise of “social justice” or some such, or, I fear, we are lost.

  • JKB

    This is slightly off topic but I just came across a LIfe Magazine article from 1939 that explains the new-fangled Social Security – LIFE – Google Books Interesting point, in the first article when the Federal Security Administration was just able to rely tell people what was in the bill as they say now 3 yrs after passage, well, Congress was already using SS taxes for general expenses and issuing IOUs, which made the $47 billion surplus planned for 1980 seem impossible so they were already fixing the bill with expansion of benefits and new taxes.
    But don’t worry, it’ll be different this time.

  • Caped Crusader

    Those of us who have served in the military have already shopped in a GUM store courtesy of the government. Our R&R stop was the God forsaken Aleutian island Adak and the selections were meager and for the most part out of date. Stateside, some better but nothing compared to a non government store.

  • Charles Martel

    I remember photographs of Moscow and other Russian cities under Communism. Instead of the frantic and entertaining signage of western cities, locations were prosaically marked with tiny signs in the sea of Marxist gray: “Restaurant,” “Groceries,” “Clothing,” etc.

    11B40 is right: the left lacks the artistry or the intelligence to create anything beautiful or useful, thus cannot compete head-to-head with something like America. So it burrows from within. Fortunately, there is a cure for tapeworm, although it can make you very sick while it takes effect. This is our tapeworm moment, eh?


    They’re not smart meters – they’re Socialist meters. You see where all of this is going … don’t you.
    First they came for the trans-fats
    Then they came for the salt
    Tomorrow they’ll turn your heat down or up and your air conditioner on or off.
    August 2003: 35,000-40,000 dead in Europe during August heatwave. So what happens when we experience the next heat or cold spell and we’re all plugged into Big Brother’s Socialist meter. They’re doing it for the children. No matter that quite a few of them will be left orphans with no grandparents because they either froze to death or died from a heat stroke. If you believe the program will end with 2012 and the Zero out, it won’t. They’ve indoctrinated generations K-12 and into academia anemia. The progressives and the professors breed, you know ( a lid for every pot and crackpot) like the tyrants of Egypt, Libya or Saudi – Richard Trumpka. Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid also have the next generation waiting in the wings.
    We are only a generation or two away of no living memory of WWII or Gimbel Brothers (damn I still miss the store). Like Charles in NJ (no sunny side up eggs), I still can remember when we could buy just the yolks in the chicken section of the supermarket.

  • jj

    Charles – we’re all punished all the time for the idiot behavior of idiots.  (Every time you’re sitting at a traffic light, remember that it’s only there because some idiot did something idiotic and got killed at that crossing!)
    My state has state liquor stores – though they may be contemplating doing away with them because the state’s broke, and all those workers all over the place are state workers, and get state pensions, and that kind of BS is no longer affordable.  Not to mention – for all the good it does they might as well have stayed home.  You can buy wine anywhere, but “hard” liquor only in the state stores.  The state apparently thinks people don’t get plastered on wine.  So we are, inevitably, among the nation’s leaders in wine-drunk kids driving into trees, ditches, each other, etc.  (If you’re determined to be an idiot, you’ll find a way to behave idiotically, even if the best you can do is only 13% alcohol.)
    You have no idea what a racket PBS really is.
    Hate to be politically incorrect, unfriendly, simplistic, and just generally rude about it, but when Michelle Obama gets control of her own gigantic ass, then she can tell the rest of us how to eat.

  • europeanne

    I’m not sure what Steves is talking about.  I’m aware of no such period of prohibited heat or A/C.  But there are plenty of other crazy government intrusions.  The Egyptian guy who opened the flower shop across the street explained that by law he must close for a certain time in the afternoon.  He’s willing to work hard, but the government sets his hours.

  • Tonestaple

    Washington has a state monopoly on liquor sales.  You can get beer and wine in grocery stores but the hard stuff has to come from the state.  We had two referenda on the last ballot to do away with this ridiculous system and perhaps that’s why it failed:  neither one could get a majority.  On the other hand, there have been past elections where there was only one referendum on the subject on the ballot and that didn’t pass either.  I really don’t know why there are so many irrational people packed into one small area.

    1140B, I used to read every book on Russia I could get my hands on and I was always so glad to visit the grocery store after reading one.  Imagine standing in line for God-knows-what and then finding out they don’t even have your size when you get to the front, or hoping to find beef and instead finding, well, something gray, (again) God knows the source.  You could always find some idiot lefty who would say we don’t need all the choices in the grocery store, one kind of toothpaste is enough.  But seeing all the different options is so beautiful.  It’s a kind of art, really.

    This is also why I have long hated and resisted the use of my own shopping bags.  In every book, you learned that every Russian woman would carry with her a shopping bag for the chance of running across a line that might be something good and you had to be prepared to carry it home just in case you got any.  I do not ever want to live like a Russian.

  • JKB

    I wish I could remember who it was but I remember a overweight comedian who had a routine about the lines in the Soviet Union.  Waiting all day for bread.  His bit was that needed to be some good bread.  The kind that you go around asking everybody “Did you have the bread?”

  • Charles Martel

    Another thing I remember reading about the old Soviet Union was that when you went shopping, you had to stand in three lines to complete the process.

    You waited in the first line to place your order, say, a pork chop.

    You waited in second line to get a chit to redeem for your order.

    You stood in a third line where, once you reached the clerk, you would exchange your chit for your chop.

    Marxism: It’s what’s for dinner. 

  • Indigo Red

    Moscow of April 1979 was a city of lines to everything and when you got to the head of the line there was usually nothing left. I remember going into and ice cream shop near Red Square; it was like another world. There were no lines, just a bunch of customers milling around a glass counter display case of dozens of ice cream flavors. Just like in any Baskin-Ribbins, the customers stood off until ready to order then stepped up, made their choice, received a perfect order, paid their money and got change. Everyone was happy. Saw nothing else like it in the 10 days in the CCCP.

  • Charles Martel

    Indigo, was that ice cream shop kind of like a Potemkin village, a set up to show foreign visitors  how spiffy life in the USSR was?

    Another thing I came across years ago was a description of the effort McDonalds went to to set up its first outlets in Russia. Something like three years of hard searching and negotiations to secure reliable supplies of high-quality potatoes and beef, and months spent not only recruiting what would pass for personable employees in the former Soivet Union but training them how to smile and not look like they were passing a hard stool.

    It was worth it. When McD’s opened, good ingredients and beaming teenage workers to boot, Muscovites were astonished by it. They had never eaten food so freshly prepared and tasty, served to them by people who seemed genuinely interested in being pleasant and wanting customers to have a good time. What an idea!

  • Caped Crusader

    “Another thing I remember reading about the old Soviet Union was that when you went shopping, you had to stand in three lines to complete the process.
    You waited in the first line to place your order, say, a pork chop.
    You waited in second line to get a chit to redeem for your order.
    You stood in a third line where, once you reached the clerk, you would exchange your chit for your chop.
    Marxism: It’s what’s for dinner. ”  Charles Martel
    Sounds exactly the same as my state DMV and similar interactions with government!

  • Ymarsakar

    The Left desires slaves. Do we have any volunteers in America? Oh yes we do. Plenty.

  • Spartacus

    “They can have my mozzarella sticks when they pry them out of my cold, dead hands.” * — Charlton Heston
    * Posibly misquoted.