Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why The Nanny State Destroys All It Touches

Britain has just provided us with a fascinating example of why conservatism works and liberalism fails in the real world, and we should be paying attention. What they’re doing is removing street signs and other devices meant to keep people safe on the roads. Why they’re doing it, is because these signs were having the opposite effect. Get this!

Our story comes to us from the DailyMail Online (LINK), perhaps the greatest source of actual information left on the planet. This particular story deals with changes that have been made to Exhibition Road in the heart of London’s museum quarter.

For years now, liberal safety advocates have been installing ever more safety measures to protect drivers and pedestrians. This has ranged from restrictive rules for drivers to signs warning drivers about dangers to curbs meant to separate the road from the sidewalk to railings meant to pen in pedestrians to designated crosswalks, etc. The idea was that the government would find all the potential dangers and then warn drivers and pedestrians about them or they would find ways to eliminate those dangers.

Of course, that’s not how it worked out. Why? Because once the government took over warning people about what to watch for, they stopped taking precautions themselves and they relied on the government’s warnings. So now the conservative government is yanking these things out again and lo and behold, it’s actually getting safer. Here’s a picture of the road today with all the gates and curbs and signs removed:

Why is it getting safer? Because people are paying more attention. Said Sir Jeremy Dixon, the lead architect on the new project:
“When the rules by which traffic normally operates are removed - signs, barriers and curb markings - drivers become more observant. They make more eye-contact with pedestrians which produces greater watchfulness. They use the road more like pedestrians. They take more responsibility for their actions. [S]tudies have shown that when traffic lights are removed from crossings, traffic flows more freely and efficiently because drivers take more care.”
Imagine that. When the government takes responsibility for something, people take less personal responsibility for their own actions. When the government stops playing nanny, people take more responsibility for their actions. Who could have guessed?

And there’s more. Daniel Moylan, the Deputy Chairman of Transport for London said this:
“The psychology of this scheme is fascinating. Experience seems to show that when you dedicate space to traffic and control it with signs and green traffic lights, motorists develop a claim on it. It becomes ‘my space.’ Drivers become annoyed if people move into it.”
In other words, they develop a sense of entitlement.

Folks, this is exactly what conservatives warn about with government. When the government gives something to people, they develop feelings of entitlement and they become belligerent to anyone who violates “their rights.” What’s more, they stop taking personal responsibility for their own actions in those areas, i.e. they become dependent on the government.

This issue right here is the human condition in a nutshell and proves the conservative belief that the nanny state is destructive, not constructive. It destroys those it seeks to help. This is exactly why generations of government welfare have destroyed the families who accepted the government’s intervention in their lives. This is why big businesses who have come to rely on the government need bailouts to keep them afloat. This is why we are facing a crushing amount of regulation today, because once the government begins taking care of you, it keeps moving into more and more aspects of your life as you become increasingly helpless. These are not coincidences.

This is why government stinks on a human level and it applies to everything the government touches. There is an incredible lesson here, will anybody learn it? Seeing as how Los Angeles just banned footballs and frisbies from being thrown on the beach. . . I’m thinking the answer is no.


StanH said...

When you have a bulging government, you then have throngs of beaurocrats trying to justify their existence. You can imagine that street in London had a team of government dimwits placing signs on top of signs, all the while bilking the public, ostensibly for their own good. This is a vicious cycle than must be curtailed, lest gravity will eventually take over, crashing entire societies, leaving the gentle snowflakes (citizens) melting away in a storm of reality…like don’t step in front of cars. Great life analogy Andrew.

Tam said...

This reminds me of something that happened at my kid's school Monday. We were running a little bit late and he got to the gate just as the bell rang. The teacher monitoring the entrance told all the stragglers to hurry to class, so they all started running. Then she yelled, "Don't run! You'll fall!"

First of all, you tell kids to hurry but don't run? Duh. But more significant in the little exchange was the exact principle you described here, only on a much smaller level, obviously. I agree that kids should not be running in halls at school, but for one, this was an open outdoor courtyard. Second, the specific warning really rubbed me the wrong way. Don't run, you'll fall??? Really? Some kids have amazing control of their bodies, and those who don't won't ever learn if they aren't allowed to try. And what if they do fall? Maybe a scrape or a bruise, but also, they'll learn about running and falling from experience!

If we can't run, how do we learn how to run? And more importantly, how to get back up?

rlaWTX said...

I am amazed that whoever came up with this idea of deregulation wasn't pilloried in the public square instead of having their idea adopted! Could common sense be sneaking into the over-nannied?

tryanmax said...

Oh, Andrew, you just don't get it do you? Sure, removing traffic signs in Britain might have a positive effect over there, but we can't just assume the same thing would happen here. Besides, we're only talking about traffic signs! There's no way you can relate that to bigger things like people's health and livelihoods. Of course people look out more when you take away road signs. I mean, the cars and pedestrians are right there, but you can't expect people to plan for the future! Typical conservative. You just don't like helping people and you'll look for any excuse not to.

T-Rav said...

It's still Tuesday?! Oh no! Groundhog Day has come to life! Help us, Bill Murray!

Anonymous said...

This business of signs--everywhere--to tell us what to do and what not to do is totally out of hand. Traffic signs can become so numerous that by the time you've read them all, you've crashed your car or walked into a light pole. The classic is the Aviso/Warning! stickers on buckets that warn kids not to stick their heads in the buckets lest they get caught on the handle and drown. Most kids wouldn't even think of doing that--until they see the illustration and think "that looks cool, I think I'll try that."

T-Rav said...

I expect that, in the very near future, HuffPo or someone will be looking for any case they can find of this deregulation policy having a downside, and then blowing it up into a crisis or something. That's their way.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, It is a vicious cycle. People become dependent and that breeds more dependence and they ask the government to get more involved, which makes them more dependent.

On the other hand, the government starts to make a living off of protecting the people, so they become happy to promote dependence.

It's an ever-worsening cycle.

DUQ said...

Interesting article Andrew. Nice connection to all of liberalism. And I doubt very much that liberals would get this. They would just compartmentalize this thought and then never apply it in other aspects of their lives.

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, Excellent point! Telling kids not to run in an open field just because they might get hurt is pure nannyism. Every kid on the planet has run a million times throughout recorded history and the odds of getting hurt (unless you're on ice or something) are incredibly low. Further, kids know the risks as we've all fall down at one point or another.

So there's no reason whatsoever to warn kids about the dangers of running. Warnings should be for HIDDEN dangers not just things we think you should use some caution doing!

But this is what nannyism does. It warns you about things you already know on the premise that you aren't smart enough to realize that there are dangers. It's very stupid.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Just wait until someone gets hurt. The first person to get hit by a car when they do something stupid will become the "person who didn't need to die." And all the liberals will be outraged and will demand a return of the signs.

And they will make this argument even if the person to get hit was drunk and playing games with the traffic because personal responsibility means nothing to them.

It won't even matter if a 100 people were hurt every year under the current system because they won't compare the numbers. They will just whine that "you've made the world unsafe, look at this guy who was hurt by your evil idea." It's the same way they don't care that millions of lives are being ruined by welfare depedency because they can always point to the one person "who truly needs it."

Trust me, I've seen liberals make this argument over and over and over.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, LOL! Yeah. Those are certainly some of the problems. But I disagree with the point about the future because there is no future, there is only the present and people are hurting RIGHT NOW so how does it help to think about the future when we could help people right now by putting up a sign?!!!!

Also, how can we be so heartless?? This is clearly survival of the fittest, social Darwinism. We are sentencing the poor and minorities to die because they don't have the benefits of the rich, who grow up around cars. Boo hoo.

And the ever popular, "if we can save just one person with a sign, then it's worth it" (no matter how many other people it endangers).

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Yeah, I swapped out articles and forgot to remove the link. It is now officially Wednesday.... and there is a Wednesday article at the film site. (LINK)

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Signage is insane. They put signs on everything now. And like advertising, it's become so overused and there's so much visual pollution that it's become impossible to pay attention to them all. And when you see warnings like "don't put your hand in a moving lawnmower blade," then you know we've come to the point that the signs are for legal purposes only. Thus, to avoid some idiot suing people, we've come to a point where actual warnings are now obscured. Nice.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, All it will take is one person to die on this street and they will (1) ignore all the deaths/injuries from before and (2) ignore the millions who have used the road safely, and (3) ignore whatever stupid thing that person may have done, just so they can whine that a single sign would have 100% for sure saved this person's life. Thus, we need the signs back and conservatives are heartless murderers for not protecting "the helpless."

Yep. It's coming.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, Liberals never extrapolate correctly. They simply refuse to draw broader lessons about their own behavior. That's why it doesn't bother them that they don't live their beliefs in their own lives, because they don't equate the things they do with larger lessons about society... otherwise their beliefs would all fall apart.

BevfromNYC said...

Another issue about nanny-statism is liability. The more rules and and cautionary signs, the more fodder for trial lawyers. The state is now held just as responsible for what they DON'T warn against as for what the DO warn against. Ah yes..."failure to warn" is big business.

tryanmax said...

Am I the only one with Five Man Electrical Band in his head?

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Good point. In a world where people expect more and more warnings, there comes a point where the liability shifts and you suddenly find yourself liable for anything that happens unless you've provided a warning. And that's insane because human stupidity knows no bounds and it's just not possible to warn people about all of the possible ways people can do something stupid and hurt themselves with your product.

Indeed, when we've gotten to the point that someone needs to warn others about things that should be blatantly obvious -- don't put hand in fire or spilling blade, box has edges, don't slam bat into head -- then we've crossed over into a world where personal responsibility is dead, and our legal system has become a lottery for the foolish and careless.

AndrewPrice said...

Five Man Electric Band? Hmm. Not sure what that is.

DUQ said...

Did anybody hear about this thing Rush was talking about yesterday? Some school has hired people to go through every lunch students bring from home and judges how healthy they are. If they aren't healthy enough, then they confiscate the lunch and make them eat the school lunch.

This made the news because they took away some preschooler's lunch, which was a turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, with a side of a banana, potato chips, and apple juice, and made the kid eat the school's McNuggets instead. That's an outrage and it fits right in with what we're talking about here!

tryanmax said...

Perhaps this will jog some memories: LINK

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I heard about that and it really highlights so much of what is wrong with liberalism.

First, you have the school monitoring the children (and by extension the parents) to make sure they are raising their kids the way the state wants.

Secondly, the justification is the ludicrous "health and safety of children."

Third, look at how completely backwards the system works in practice. In fact, what are people who are concerned about "health" even doing serving nuggets in the first place?

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Hmm. I've heard that in passing, but I'm not really familiar with it?

Here's the link by the way (the link you posted doesn't work): LINK

Ed said...

Excellent article Andrew. This really does get right to the core of the problem with liberalism doesn't it, when the government says it will take care you, people stop taking care of themselves. But like the others, I suspect liberals won't learn anything from this. They will see this an isolated thing and they'll turn on it the moment someone gets hurt.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed! Yep, this cuts right to the core of the problem with liberalism. It shows that their entire philosophy is premised on a mistaken view of human nature -- the idea that the government can improve your life by watching out for you.

But no, they won't learn this. That's not how liberalism works. Liberalism is big on putting its head in the sand so that it can maintain its belief system.

Ed said...

It's too bad that liberals can't apply things they learn in one part of their lives to the rest of their lives. We could cure liberalism! :D

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, Common sense is the cure to liberalism, but it requires the patient being willing to actually be receptive to the treatment. That's the problem. All the facts in the world can't change the mind of someone who is determined not to listen.

Koshcat said...

The problem isn't necessarily a warning itself. What I see happening is alert fatigue. I work with our electronic medical record system quite a bit and there are mechanisms to turn on all sorts of warnings. The problem was when we had some turned on before, there were so many warning you end up ignoring all of them. Therefore, you take a potentially useful tool and make it worthless. How to get around this is a real challange so most of it is just shut off.

Most of those warning signs start innocently enough but become out of control and often times contradictory. It is finding that balance that is critical.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshkat, That's very true. When someone tells you that everything is important, you pretty quickly decide that nothing they tell you is important. It's the same thing here. When you get a thousand warnings all at once, it becomes impossible to sorting through which warnings are important and which aren't, so you start to tune them all out.

But in this instance with the road, the problem is also that people come to rely on certain things. For example, if the government tells you whenever there is a dangerous curve ahead and warns you to slow down, then people assume that if there is no warning, then there is no dangerous curve. And what you end up with is people relying on the lack of warning as much as the warning.

I think there are many facets of this and it's all connected. And what it shows ultimately is that the best system is one which only provides warnings about hidden dangers or truly significant issues. Otherwise, you end up changing human behavior for the worse in a variety of ways.

Kelly said...

I'm surprise they got away with this. Usually liberals start whining about someone will get hurt and that's pretty much the end of it.

AndrewPrice said...

Kelly, It's interesting. I'll bet it had to be framed in the exact opposite way -- "this is designed to force evil drivers to pay more attention."

Indeed, another article I saw on this talked about how too many drivers get bored because of all the safety signs and then decide to violate them just for excitement. Translation: this is giving bad people a way to feel free, we should put an end to that.

Twisted, isn't it?

patti said...

never have i felt so horrified at our government's intrusion into our lives. as a child of a german mother, who lived thru the war, i was convinced (as a mere political babe) that EVERYONE had learned their lesson. little did i know that there were folks (barry and crew spring to mind) that are distinctively NOT in that camp. their goal is to control and wield an unholy power over the masses (oh! catholic pun!) and they are just like the nazis in the fact that they won't stop until someone stops them.

so many think it ends with barry. i am horrified daily, as i know this isn't the truth, and i'm left to wonder as we fight over usless candidates, if this is indeed the beginning of the end of us.

lord have mercy, momma needs a beach vacation!

Doc Whoa said...

Excellent article and very interesting. Commentarama should be required reading for liberals. :D

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, It's amazing how relentless the people are who want to control everyone's lives. Look at the school lunch example from above. What kind of sick human being decides "I want to start monitoring what other people feed their kids and then have the power decide what they get to eat." That shows a truly sick mind.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Doc! I'm working on getting it added to school curricula all over the planet! ;)

Doc Whoa said...

Andrew, We should start a lobbying group to make that happen!


AndrewPrice said...

Doc, I like that. We should do that! :)

Graham said...

Interesting insight. Liberalism is premised on helping people who cannot help themselves, but it makes people helpless to help them. In effect, liberalism makes its own clients. Disgusting.

tryanmax said...

Totally OT: I just read a Whitney Houston related article and, I kid you not, I found this in the comments: "I am a traditionalist and don't give a rat's patootie for her kind of pop music." Some tradition! I was completely unaware that Houston's style of music was so offensive to some.

Individualist said...

"Sign Sign everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign"

Imagine that - a conservative message in an antiestablishment song from the 60's

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Graham. Liberalism does create its own clients. The only question is, do they do it intentionally or do they not realize it?

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, There are a great many people who, in the ultimate of ironies, venture forth onto the evil internet to tell the rest of us that we will die in Satan's rear end because we have seen modern television and movies and heard Satan's music.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, It happens. But it only happened briefly, then liberals realized that they needed to save the rest of us from ourselves.

tryanmax said...

Indie, there are actually a lot of those. Keep in mind, the progressive movement had been going strong for over half-a-century by the time the 60s rolled around. In many ways (not necessarily all), the protest movements of the era were in response this. The civil rights movement, for example, was in direct response to Wilson-era segregationist policies.

The early counter-culturals were heavily influenced by Classical Liberalism and were sincere in their quest to restore freedom. But mid-decade a number of factors came together to splinter the movement and ultimately, leftist radicals hijacked the movement and steered it toward Marxism.

I suggest you examine the lyrics of Bob Dylan, especially the earlier stuff like "The Times They Are a-Changin'." Conversely, stuff like "All Along the Watchtower" from the John Wesley Harding album already indicates despair that the movement he helped foster had gone awry. I think Dylan has very good reasons for not discussing his personal politics.

Individualist said...


Well said, I guess I have never given it much thought. Actually I was half joking in my original post. The song seemed to fit the circumstances outlined in Andrew's article very well both figuratively and literally that I had to post it.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I've heard that from several sources that Dylan has conservative/libertarian leanings, and it wouldn't surprise me if a lot of early hippies did.

We talked about this before in another thread and there was a really neat documentary about the hippies narrated by Peter Coyote and he made a strong case that they were not originally what they became. Indeed, he very much makes them sound libertarian mixed with utopianism initially until the radicals moved in.

tryanmax said...

I should like to see that documentary. Strangely, I never gave the hippies much thought until recently, despite the fact that my own mother's dearest wish was to be one despite being only slightly too young. Then one day I saw one of those docummercials about the mid-century folk movement (and the accompanying 12 CD collection!)

Folk has never appealed much to me, but what made me pause was a chunk of interview with one of the guys from Peter, Paul and Mary. (I don't remember which, but it's a 50/50 shot.) I always associated folk with libbie flower children but this guy was saying stuff very familiar to my conservative self.

I don't remember what he said, exactly, but then I started listening to the lyrics and history started laying itself out for me in a way no textbook ever could. A lot has already been said of the music of the 60s, but it really is the chronicle of the time. I particularly remember one morning when the words to the first verse of "The Times They Are a-Changin'" were circling in my head.

Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam,
And admit that the waters around you have grown,
And accept it that soon, you'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone
For the times, they are a-changin'

That when I realized how similar the present is to those days not so long ago and really became worried and upset that people have forgotten about history. If ever there was a time that the waters have grown 'round, surely it is now. It is well past the time to argue about how things got the way they are--and certainly past time to pretend things aren't out of hand. The time has come to simply admit that we have a problem and to take whatever salvage we can.

Some might misinterpret that as a compromise message, but I don't need to tell anyone here that the blamers and the deniers all sit together. Not only is there no compromising with their ilk, there's no fear of it. All there is is to escape their itchy grip lest they pull us under with them.

tryanmax said...

And that, dear readers, is why T should go to bed earlier.

AndrewPrice said...

Um, yeah. ;)

Even in my short life, I've seen history repeat everything at least once by now... no nobody noticed.

As for admitting we have a problem, forget it. Nobody's in the mood for that. They would rather ride this bomb to the ground.

Here's a link to the program: Hippies (2007).

tryanmax said...

That's what I figured, so I cobbled together a couple of options:

I also note that Dylan did get one line wrong: "Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen, And keep your eyes wide the chance won't come again..."

Thanks for the link. I'll see if I can't root it up.

AndrewPrice said...

Yeah, it seems that history repeats every 20 years or so, sometimes sooner.

While Option B sounds preferable, we pretty much picked Option A about a decade ago and we're well outside the plane.

I saw the program on the History Channel, and while there is some politics in it, it was surprisingly honest and rather interesting.

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