Saturday, May 9, 2009

Nanny States

Lately there have been some grumblings in the US about how we are becoming a “nanny state”. Now I’m not totally clear on what the grumblers mean, but if I were to venture a guess, they don’t like the government getting involved with taking care of people and trying to control people’s lives. Perhaps they feel their liberties are being infringed upon. Or maybe they feel that people don’t take responsibility for themselves, or that some people lose the ability to take care of themselves at all. In the US the government does involve itself in many aspects of its citizens’ lives, and in this regard it is very different from China.
The Smoking Nanny
In my home state, Oregon, it is illegal to smoke in any public building, including restaurants and bars. It is even illegal to smoke in a car that has a child under the age of 16 in it. Huge taxes are levied on tobacco and massive campaigns are waged in an effort to educate the public on the dangers of smoking. Smoking has been so stigmatized that most fewer than 20% of adults smoke. Yay, us!
In China, there is no nanny state effort like this. Most men smoke. In fact, over 60% of doctors smoke! You can smoke virtually anywhere including hospital rooms. You can’t smoke on a plane or a bus, but I have seen the bus drivers have a puff with the window open.
Virtually no women smoke. You have to go to a bar to see smoking women, and even they are in the minority.
If you are an oppressed American smoker, I would recommend China. You would be liberated from the tobacco nanny.
Transportation Nanny
In Oregon, if you are a kid on a bike, or anyone on a motorcycle, you have to wear a helmet. I’ve lost track of the size requirements, but small kids and babies need to be in car seats. Everybody has to have a seat belt on. Drivers need to pass a written and a driving test to get their license. All must be insured. Pedestrians have the right of way. Most traffic laws are obeyed and enforced.
Reverse all of the above, and you have China. Kids and babies are piled onto the family motorcycle. It appears the driver’s license requirement is the ability to fog a mirror with your breath and pay the fee. I’ve never seen a car seat here.
No traffic nanny here!
More later….

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