Nanny’s agenda exposed

Christian Kerr has a magnificent piece in the Australian on the nanny state.

THE cigarette companies, public health activists believe, will slowly bleed to death thanks to tobacco plain packaging. Now they are going in search of other beasts to slay. But threats may not be as fearsome as they say.

“Tobacco,” Nicola Roxon, who indulged the activist brigade with a bureaucracy all of their very own during her time as health minister, the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, said back then, “is the only legal product sold in Australia which if used as intended will kill you. No other product is in that category.”

Her words have not discouraged the public health lobby. Alcohol — and food — are in their sights. And they are moving.

He also has great coverage of Eric Crampton – I discovered yesterday that some Cats were unfamiliar with this freedom fighter.

Last November University of Canterbury economist Eric Crampton dissected in Australasian Science Magazine a 2008 study commissioned by our Department of Health and Ageing that estimated the social costs of alcohol abuse in Australia at $15 billion.

Crampton began with a joke. “A mathematician, an accountant and an economist are bidding for a bit of consulting work,” he said. “The sponsor wants to know what two plus two yields. The mathematician says it’s four. The accountant says it’s four, give-or-take 10 per cent. The economist closes the door and whispers to the sponsor: ‘What do you want it to be?’ ”

Crampton also made it clear that the set of costs the report’s authors had counted as “social” was also a joke. It even included “the now superfluous cooking and cleaning that a regrettably deceased bachelor had performed for himself, which was valued at the cost of hiring in the services. Excising double-counting and focusing on the costs that drinkers impose upon others yielded a more plausible $3.8bn in social costs from harmful alcohol use.”

Why do the activists play this game? There is considerable public funding and academic prestige at stake. Small and often overlapping teams of researchers at the University of Sydney received well over $2 million for projects beginning between 2009 and last year looking at smoking, “What is influential public health research” and “Corporate influences on media reporting of health”.

He blogs at Offsetting Behaviour – see the blog roll – and tweets @EricCrampton. Eric will be in Sydney for the Australian Libertarian Conference in April.

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281 Responses to Nanny’s agenda exposed

  1. Huckleberry Chunkwot

    Pedro, maybe I didn’t make my sarcasm clear enough.
    The terms euthanasia and involuntary must be mutually exclusive.

  2. Token

    Funny how a post against the nanny state ends up with the discussion in favour of the nanny state.

    Are you working of the small government = no government fallacy?

    Read the full thread Pedro. It has been noted many times that suicide has been decriminalised.

    The role of the state is to discourage it, help rehabilitate the poor soul if the suicide fails and to help dispose of the body if the event is successful.

  3. dover_beach

    If a competent adult is indisputably shown to be asking for help to die then I can’t think of a moral basis to argue that the helper is a criminal.

    Because it would, despite consent, count as murder. BTW, do you remember that case in which a man placed an advert in the paper or the like looking for another man that would have sex with him and then eat him. Do you think that there is no moral basis, even here, to argue that the murderer/ cannibal is not a criminal? If not, there is something wrong with what you believe counts as a moral basis.

    Funny how a post against the nanny state ends up with the discussion in favour of the nanny state.

    Not at all. The apparatus required to actually administer and manage the arrangements of ‘a good death’ for those of this inclination would actually involve and further the nanny state.

  4. Pedro

    Token and huckleberry, various people, me included, have commented that one of the arguments againt voluntary euthanasia is that we can’t be sure it’s really voluntary because people might be depressed, or subject to outside influence or whatever. Isn’t that a bit of nannying?

  5. Token

    Isn’t that a bit of nannying?

    Are you arguing about the pure and the perfect here?

  6. dover_beach

    If worrying about people being coerced into euthanasia constitutes ‘nannying’, we are in trouble, given that these people are likely to be genuinely vulnerable.

  7. Pedro

    “Because it would, despite consent, count as murder.”
    But that is because of our current definition of murder. A law does not make a thing moral or immoral. I don’t remember that particularly gruesome request for assisted suicide. But at a moral level, if you are a competent adult and really want to die, how is somebody killing you immoral?

    “The apparatus required to actually administer and manage the arrangements of ‘a good death’ for those of this inclination would actually involve and further the nanny state.”

    Hmmm, it’s not the nanny state if we ban assisting suicide on the grounds that people can’t be trusted to competently decide for themselves, but it would be the nanny state if we let people make those decisions and legislated a sign-off process to make sure there really was a competent decision.

  8. John H.

    Not at all. The apparatus required to actually administer and manage the arrangements of ‘a good death’ for those of this inclination would actually involve and further the nanny state.

    Not really, it is not that hard to commit suicide. Some sleepers and a plastic bag, or just keep upping the morphine. BTW, *too* easy to argue that a person seeking death is depressed. Of course a person facing a long, painful death is bloody depressed but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of informed decision making. I’ve known people who have refused further chemo because of the side effects. These people are in effect committing suicide. They would rather die prematurely than go through that hell again. It is easy to think that life must be preserved at all costs when we are healthy but enough years of pain and disability will welcome death for a great many. The prohibition against euthanasia makes people suffer for the sake of the State or the greater good. You can shove that where the sun don’t shine.

  9. Pedro

    “If worrying about people being coerced into euthanasia constitutes ‘nannying’, we are in trouble, given that these people are likely to be genuinely vulnerable.”

    But all nannying is justified on the basis of vulnerability. Smokers are victims of evil big tobacco. I have to wear a bike helmet because not doing so is apparently stupid. What is nannying if it is not making decisions for people or limiting their right to make those decisions. It doesn’t stop being nannying because it is a good idea for once.

    Token, I’m doing the opposite of arguing for the pure and the perfect. I’m a pragmatist and largely a libertarian. So I like the state to not interfere, but when the stakes are so high, it really is a good idea.

  10. If you consent to radical treatment for pain management which has a risk of asphyxia, and a doctor prescribes you “too much” morphine in a graduated, progressive therapy for the pain and you stop breathing, what’s the problem

    The ‘If’.

  11. JamesK

    I’m a pragmatist and largely a libertarian

    LOL

  12. Pedro

    “LOL”
    Oh look, a stupid person has arrived.

  13. dover_beach

    But that is because of our current definition of murder. A law does not make a thing moral or immoral.

    True, but this law accurately reflects our moral tradition.

    But at a moral level, if you are a competent adult and really want to die, how is somebody killing you immoral?

    Because consent doesn’t exhaust what counts as moral or immoral, just as the consent given in the example I provided above, doesn’t extinguish the moral enormity of the acts involved.

    Hmmm, it’s not the nanny state if we ban assisting suicide on the grounds that people can’t be trusted to competently decide for themselves, but it would be the nanny state if we let people make those decisions and legislated a sign-off process to make sure there really was a competent decision.

    Notice the difference? In the first instance, you have a simple law, in the latter instance you have an apparatus of administration and management.

    Not really, it is not that hard to commit suicide.

    I never said it was; it is even legal.

    Of course a person facing a long, painful death is bloody depressed but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of informed decision making. I’ve known people who have refused further chemo because of the side effects. These people are in effect committing suicide.

    No, they are simply denying themselves burdensome medical treatment. People are perfectly entitled to do this. To suggest that this is ‘in effect’ to kill oneself is to fail to notice the difference between an act of omission and an act of commission.

  14. .

    Need we remind the reader of the case of Terri Schiavo?

    Why? It was not euthenasia. She had her life support switched off.

    Totally different.

  15. dover_beach

    To which she didn’t consent to, dot. But, yes, apart from that the matters were ‘totally different’. Dear oh dear.

  16. Pedro

    “True, but this law accurately reflects our moral tradition.”

    Sure, but I’m asking whether it should be reconsidered. If it is now legal to commit suicide and that was once a crime then how does one justify prosecuting a helper?

    “Notice the difference? In the first instance, you have a simple law, in the latter instance you have an apparatus of administration and management.”

    But that difference is irrelevant to the question of which is nannying, the essence of which is the imposition of decisions. A simple law prohibiting you from asking to be euthanised is the universal imposition of a decision to not be euthanised. If the justification for that universal decision is concerns about decision making capacity then that is nannying. Now, I acknowledge some people might have a religious justification for such a law, but the nonreligious justifications were given in various comments, including by me, and that’s what I’m talking about.

    I don’t think this is so hard. Is it just that you don’t want to agree that something you favour might be nannying?

  17. Pedro

    I don’t think Schiavo’s case has any relationship to voluntary euthanasia, but it does raise interesting moral questions about who should make the decision for an incompetent.

    Unless you think a life of unbearable suffering is necessarily better than death because that is god’s will, I think you have to acknowledge that there are two ends of the spectrum and the argument is about the grey area.

  18. Pedro

    “To suggest that this is ‘in effect’ to kill oneself is to fail to notice the difference between an act of omission and an act of commission.”

    And a plastic bag over the head is the omission of air or the commission of self-suffocation? What about a hunger strike, or fluid strike? What about a simple blood transfusion?

  19. Jarrah

    “No, they are simply denying themselves burdensome medical treatment. People are perfectly entitled to do this.”

    It can be the only way someone can end their suffering, in jurisdictions without voluntary euthanasia and in situations where other people won’t help. Sometimes people starve themselves to death because they don’t have the physical capacity to kill themselves in any other way, and the law prevents anyone helping.

  20. “Too much beer, not enough whispering. Nanny will be onto you soon.”

    She doesn’t know my secret weapon….beer breath.

  21. “She doesn’t know my secret weapon….beer breath”

    That reminds me of this

  22. .

    To which she didn’t consent to, dot. But, yes, apart from that the matters were ‘totally different’. Dear oh dear.

    What a load of nonsense. I don’t consent to mortality either, but tough shit.

  23. dover_beach

    Sure, but I’m asking whether it should be reconsidered. If it is now legal to commit suicide and that was once a crime then how does one justify prosecuting a helper?

    I think, but I may be mistaken, it is because the former has been made legal out of compassion for those that fail in their object while the latter remains illegal in order to not encourage those who would assist in the commission of such wrongdoing.

    But that difference is irrelevant to the question of which is nannying

    Not really. A law which prohibits euthanasia is a law which prohibits persons from actively and deliberately taking lives even where the person concerned may have consented to the taking. The law also prohibits persons from amputating perfectly good limbs even where they consent to such enormities and it does this by prohibiting doctors from acceding to the prospective amputees wishes. I don’t think this is ‘nannying’. Nannying involves the government insinuating itself into the mundane aspects of my life even where I am perfectly able to look after myself. Now in the situation concerned, where I am terminally ill, or suffering from Alzheimer’s, that is in situations where I am actually quite vulnerable; I don’t think a simple law which prevents me from procuring assistance to die, or one which prohibits persons from touting their services as ‘angels of death’, is in fact ‘nannying’, but if it is, it is really ‘nannying’ of a homeopathic variety. It is the qualified ‘nannying’ which exhorts that we care for the orphan, the stranger, and the widow; I have no problem at all with this.

    I don’t think Schiavo’s case has any relationship to voluntary euthanasia,

    The case is of course related to voluntary euthanasia by the word euthanasia.

    And a plastic bag over the head is the omission of air or the commission of self-suffocation?

    What? Look, I’m not inventing an original distinction here. If someone refuses a second bout of chemotherapy which is judged as unlikely to succeed, they haven’t killed themselves, the cancer has done that.

    It can be the only way someone can end their suffering,

    There is the principle of double effect that can avoid this situation.

    What a load of nonsense. I don’t consent to mortality either, but tough shit.

    I love it when you lose it.

  24. Yobbo

    Another word for euthanasia is mercy killing.

    We do it to animals all the time, because death is inevitable, and getting it over quickly reduces the suffering.

    It’s kind of sad that we require humans to suffer through pain that we wouldn’t inflict on animals.

    Of course there are also plenty of cases of animals that are euthanised simply because they have no economic value, or the cost of the treatment isn’t worth it.

    That’s the trick when trying to apply this to humans. How can you minimise suffering while still ensuring that people who want to keep living are not euthanised against their will?

    As for the people saying that killing yourself is easy because you can just buy a gun, take loads of morphine or a bunch of sleeping tablets….When was the last time you tried to buy a gun, or a lot of morphine, or a lethal dose of sleeping tablets? It’s not as easy as you seem to think. You can’t even buy Sudafed easily in Australia any more, because someone might use it to get high.

    I think at the very least that people who wish to kill themselves should be allowed to buy the stuff that would allow them to do it. At present, if you were laying dying in a hospital bed, and asked the doctor to bring you a bottle of liquid morphine so you could drink it and die, that doctor would be committing a crime even by putting the bottle beside your bed. That needs to change.

  25. Jc

    When was the last time you tried to buy a gun, or a lot of morphine, or a lethal dose of sleeping tablets?

    Really Yobs, you’re asking this.

    I could buy a hand gun in about 30 minutes. The Greek hardware store owner a couple of burbs down the road would sell me one.

    As for buying sleeping pills. Here’s what you would do. Arrange an appointment at several docs offices, tell them you can’t sleep because… I dunno, there was a death in the family or lost your job and need a prescription of sleeping pills to tide you over. Collect four or so prescriptions and you’re off to the races.

    It’s not as easy as you seem to think.

    I don’t think it’s as hard you you think either.

    But that takes away from the story.

    I don’t want a government that also pays for the pills deciding on life and death stuff. You’re putting the cart before the horse here. Privatize the medical system first and then talk about it.

  26. Yobbo

    I’m not saying that the government should be deciding. I’m saying that it shouldn’t be a criminal offense to offer someone help in killing themselves. People with advanced terminal diseases don’t have a lot of options. It’s not like they can go for a drive and steal a gun somewhere if they have been bedridden for 6 months.

  27. .

    DB’s argument goes down to writing more than everyone else and using scare quotes.

    We won, Yobbo.

    I don’t want a government that also pays for the pills deciding on life and death stuff. You’re putting the cart before the horse here. Privatize the medical system first and then talk about it.

    We have a semi privatised system. Private hospitals largely won’t do it because it is against their beliefs (ask them about why Jesus was speared through the side though).

    All you need do is decriminalise the actions of a doctor to allow/enable someone of a sound mind and in suffering and who is dying to kill themselves.

    Currently, that stupidly stands as murder.

    Even if a doctor humanely finishes someone off simply by gradually upping their morphine to relieve pain, it can be argued they “murdered” the patient.

    This is the second kind of subtle euthenasia you and I endorse JC.

    All you need to do is change the criminal law. In a public system, if you changed the health laws other than abolishing regulation, you’d go down the wrong path.

  28. Jc

    I don’t disagree Dot.

    My problem though is that we’re not going to end up with a libertarian version of youth in Asia. We’re going to possibly end up with Tubbsie Milne’s , the Emily list nazi pack and Shane Wand’s who is trying to close the deficit gap.

    Seriously, would you want any of these raving lunatics near a switch?

    Re the other issue you mentioned.

    My understanding is that docs can prescribe an amount of opiates that won’t terminate an individual but it will be enough to put them in a medically induced coma. Isn’t that right?

  29. Chris

    My understanding is that docs can prescribe an amount of opiates that won’t terminate an individual but it will be enough to put them in a medically induced coma. Isn’t that right?

    They can even prescribe pain medication if they know it will hasten death as long as hastening death is not the purpose of the high dosage and instead to relieve pain. At the point a terminally ill patient needs that sort of medication its probably more up to the doctor than the patient though.

    So if you want to minimise pain at the end you want to choose your doctors very carefully and know what their moral stance on the subject is in the hope of getting one that will be willing to veer on the pain relief side rather than the “keep alive as long as possible” side.

    I’ve spent substantial time with a couple of relatives at the end of a terminal illness and neither was put in a medically induced coma. Rather at the end they were coming in and out of conciousness depending on the level of pain relief at the time. As the level of pain relief increased their breathing became increasingly laboured. My understanding is the morphine suppresses the breathing so eventually the dose gets so high people just stop breathing – or the disease itself kills them – probably a combination of the two.

  30. Jc

    They can even prescribe pain medication if they know it will hasten death as long as hastening death is not the purpose of the high dosage and instead to relieve pain. At the point a terminally ill patient needs that sort of medication its probably more up to the doctor than the patient though.

    Are you sure? I’ll find out tonight or tomorrow as we have a 5th year med student relative with us for a a few months.

    (Don’t ask. It’s one of wifey’s enormous family entourage that I have to either support financially or give them temporary shelter. I married all 97 of them including their kids).

    My understanding is the morphine suppresses the breathing so eventually the dose gets so high people just stop breathing – or the disease itself kills them – probably a combination of the two.

    That’s how I understand it too. It’s a fine balance, but the medication can be the factor causing death. However most of these terminal patients, as far as I know are not in a great deal of pain towards the end.

  31. Chris

    Are you sure? I’ll find out tonight or tomorrow as we have a 5th year med student relative with us for a a few months.

    I would be very interested to hear what they are taught they are allowed to do and where the line is for them in terms of legal risk.

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