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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: Nice and the Creeping Nanny State

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Nice and the Creeping Nanny State

If any of the health care proposals before Congress pass and is signed into law, we will soon have a committee tasked with reducing health care expenditures similar to Britain's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).  Some might remember Nice as the organization unwittingly killing patients who are terminally ill (see my previous post for more details and a Monty Python clip).  Nice takes its job seriously.  Robert Watts of Timesonline describes a new policy proposal in, "Health and safety snoops to enter family homes."
Health and safety inspectors are to be given unprecedented access to family homes to ensure that parents are protecting their children from household accidents.

New guidance drawn up at the request of the Department of Health urges councils and other public sector bodies to “collect data” on properties where children are thought to be at “greatest risk of unintentional injury”.

Council staff will then be tasked with overseeing the installation of safety devices in homes, including smoke alarms, stair gates, hot water temperature restrictors, oven guards and window and door locks.

The draft guidance by a committee at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has been criticised as intrusive and further evidence of the “creeping nanny state”.
Creeping nanny state?  Daya think?  Matthew Elliot, a new found friend of freedom, nicely sums up problems with the proposal.
Matthew Elliott, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It is a huge intervention into family life which will be counter-productive.

“Good parents will feel the intrusion of the state in their homes and bad parents will now have someone else to blame if they don’t bring up their children in a sensible, safe environment.”
Let me add my two bits to Elliot's.  Setting aside the insult to parents Nice's administrative shortcomings and the real possibility that collecting the information and applying safety equipment to households in Britain might well me more expensive then the medical costs, the plan has other problems.  The state officials know of safety devices, but not the household specific information about the children or their parents.  For example, a child may be a climber, and the state might notice that the parents don't have electrical socket plug covers.  The state might find the home safe but not know that the child spends ten hours a day with grandma.  Parents have that information, and nearly all parents love their children and are concerned about their welfare.  As Elliot suggests, why not let parents raise their kids?


  1. Mikel Caddell1/12/09 4:14 PM

    I agree with Elliot on this post; parents know what is best for their children and should be left to rear them in the way they see fit, (within reason of course). The NICE plan to 'help' households is an interesting thought to consider; but I think if carried out, it would prove to be more trouble than it would be worth. The safety devices would most likely prove to be more of an expensive hassle than a true help. Not to mention all of the angry parents who would definitely disapprove of being told how they should raise their own children. Overall, I feel the idea and plan is not a good one and will not be as beneficial as it would be detrimental to the welfare of the children it plans to protect.

  2. Kayla Neumann2/12/09 6:23 PM

    I also agree with Elliot and Mikel. Parents know exactly what is best for their own child, and so therefore they should be able to say and differenciate between right and wrong. The plan that is supposed to help households, is a very thoughtful and interesting topic, but in the end I truly believe that it would cause multiple problems within the household. First and foremost, the devices would probably end up costing more than what parents want to spend or have to spend. Second, many parents would be really aggravated with a device telling them how they should raise their own child. With this cause, it is very likely that not a lot of people would even consider buying this device. I honestly feel that this idea would be a disappointment to parents.

  3. Bryce Conner2/12/09 10:04 PM

    I definetly agree with Elliot in the fact that, parents know what is best for their kids. I feel as if Nice has not thought out this plan, due to the fact that there are way many variables to take into account like where the kid is most of the time, what the kids do in their free time, etc. This plan would end up hurting Nice in their pocket and become a big nuisance, rather than helping Britain out in the end.