Friday, August 06, 2004

A Question of Choice?

David Carr, of Samizdata, is on the radio tonight refuting the idea that the state has the right to micro manage every aspect of our lives. (Taking the Fight to the Enemy)

To my mild embarrassment I’m a qualified health promotion officer, although I haven’t practiced for nearly ten years. In my defence I was very, very bad at it. In the end I resigned, in preference to being fired, driven to distraction by the complete absence of any way to measure whether anything I was doing was making any difference to anybody. Such was my stress at the time that I was (secretly) smoking 25 cigarettes a day, coughing up brown phlegm, living off take aways and only exercising when I got up to change channels on the TV. The irony of all this seems delicious in retrospect, but at the time it rather undermined any remaining belief I had that I should be lecturing people on how to live their lives.

It was probably working in health promotion that tipped me from being a ‘modern’ liberal to the old fashioned, small government sort. I remember the missionary zeal of the head of a national anti smoking organisation whom I once met. There was nothing she wouldn’t have done to stop people smoking, fair or foul. I also remember a job I nearly applied for. The job involved the implementation on an NHS trust’s new anti smoking policy, imposing a blanket ban on smoking on their property. The stated rationale for this was that it would "protect people from the effects of passive and active smoking".

Now I know what protecting people from the effects of passive smoking means, and by and large I‘m in favour of it, provided it can be balanced against the rights of others to smoke if they want. But what does protecting people from active smoking mean? It means they think that they know better than you what’s good for you, and they are going to stop you doing it for your own good.

And surely that’s not liberal by anyone’s definition.


Blogger Eliab said...

By anybodies definition! Methinks you spread your wings too far.
Plenty of people I know over here in Brussles would say that protecting ourselves from ourselves is thevery soul of liberalism. What, after all could be more liberal than ensuring that we do not think inconvienient thoughts about mass immiration, or Islam?

4:57 pm  
Blogger john b said...

Bad examples - immigration and Islamism are clearly areas where the aim of 'liberal' policy is to protect people from other people, not to protect people from themselves (for a start, if it were the latter, we'd have a rigorous campaign of re-education for people daft enough to be fundamentalist Muslims...)

6:26 pm  
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