Faddism or Fascism?


Barry Turner asks: Is health advice in our interest? | Photo: The Linc

By Barry Turner | Media Law lecturer, University of Lincoln

The population is under a deluge of information in the media, often hectoring in nature about how we should live more healthily. Some of this advice is simply a modern version of the old common sense that is now lacking in our society.

Some of it is more insidious in nature and is backed by dubious self interest groups. Some of it is even more absurd and resembles nanny’s advice to young men on how to protect their eyesight.

Young people, particularly students are a major target for the attentions of the nanny state. Campaigns against drinking in particular are likely to be directed at that age group. While no one would advocate wanton drunkenness as a life style do we really need the government and its numerous attendant agencies telling young people how to live their lives? Student life has always been associated with excess and indulgence.

Not many years ago this was the last fling before everyone had to go off and earn a living and live in the ‘real’ world. Even today with student education more directed at career development rather than ‘education’ student excess is alive and well and represents youthful exuberance rather than dangerous lifestyle.

On a weekly and sometimes daily basis we are deluged with strict avuncular instructions on what is a safe way and a responsible way to live our lives. No more than 21 units a week, no ‘happy hours’ that encourage heavy drinking, passive smoking “eat your 5 a day” and on and on and on!

What gives these ‘Healthists’ the idea that their advice is wanted, or in the main listened to? When did it become the government’s job to guide us to the ideal lifestyle?

Respect for autonomy is the first principle of ethics. It demands that we recognise an individual’s right to self determination and denies any right to coerce. Yet the Healthists would coerce and prevent and deny individuals the right to chose by extending this ‘advice’ into prohibition.

The government now wants to ban ‘happy hours’ and cheap drinks promotions allegedly on the grounds of health. Will this lead to students leading a healthy lifestyle? History tells us not. Students will continue to annoy nanny by their indulgence and irresponsibility; they will still lead and clearly enjoy ‘unhealthy’ lifestyles.

If the government achieve this latter day prohibition then it will have only one effect on student drinking habits. The practice will become very much more expensive and add to the colossal burden of student debt.

They can shift their attentions to giving young people advice on prudent financial management then. Or can’t they?

5 Responses to Faddism or Fascism?

  1. Rebecca says:

    Thank you Barry Turner. I have noticed the tide turning for several years now. I am quite upset about it.

  2. Adam Underdown says:

    Perhaps if people didn’t complain so readily about how the government doesn’t protect them and complain about the lack of access to the NHS, we would not have got into a ‘nanny state’.

    If they allow people to hurt themselves, the public cry. If they take away people’s freedom to hurt themselves, the public cry.

    Yes most of what they tout is common sense, but it quite clearly is lacking today and is needed, especially when we have 12 year-olds fathering children etc.

  3. Jackson Jones says:

    “Student life has always been associated with excess and indulgence.”

    Too right, Barry. If I’m being completely honest, the whole student lifestyle was definitely a major incentive to actually getting me to come to university.

    Of course we drink a load of booze, we’ve just turned 18. It’s just become legal man! Why target us with anti-drinking campaigns?

    We do study as well ‘nanny’. Have the Government forgotten about all the money they’ve loaned us to get a degree? We’re not p*ssheads throwing it down the drain, we’re the people who go on afterwards and run the country. If anything, I fell we actually deserve a good party and a drink.

    They need to sort their heads out if you ask me mate.

  4. Adam Underdown says:

    They don’t loan you money to help you get educated, they loan you money to make money out of you before you even start working.

  5. Jamie Hogue says:

    I completely agree with you here, Barry.

    Although common sense is indeed lacking in some elements of society, constant badgering by the media to live healthier lifestyles does nothing but exaccerbate the problems in question. Surely they realize that my campaigning against something, we want to do it all the more?

    But this isn’t simply the incidious mindset of the child who has no interest in his toy until it is taken by another, but a natural reaction to feeling completely and utterly stifled.

    The term ‘nanny’ itself implies that the government and media are preaching outdated ideals.

    The more people try and tighten their grip around us and our lifestyles, the more we will inevitably try to break free. After 18 years living with ‘nanny’, wouldn’t you want to break away from all the doilies and constant nagging?

    We know the dangers of this world and we know the indulgences. And we’re fully aware that the two are linked; student life may revolve around excess, but it’s a balanced excess. For instance, students rarely go out drinking every-night, more rather once or twice every week.