I fully accept that government has a role. By design government is intended to provide essential services needed for quality of life – things like roads and bridges, military service, law enforcement and other first responders. Our founding documents specify it. The Bible contemplates it as when Jesus himself, said “render unto Caesar, that which is Caesars”.
But government is not infallible. Problems often arise since government is steered by people who are fallible.
We sometimes jokingly refer to a kakistocracy: a government run by the least competent of its citizens. Not always, but hey….look around.
Cautionary tales abound of government becoming bloated and overreaching, too consumed with feeding itself and justifying its own existence. When government tentacles reach into everything it sees, and some that it imagines, we find what is often referred to as a “nanny state”.
Nanny state is a term first coined in Great Britain, making the circulation of speeches and editorials in the 1960’s. It refers to a government so big that it becomes the caretaker for all of our needs and ensures that we are protected from ourselves. No longer content to provide just essential services a nanny state believes that it knows best and will help us in our feeble attempts to get by in life.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, warned against the nanny state saying, “We should not expect the state to appear in the guise of an extravagant good fairy at christening, a loquacious companion at every stage of life’s journey and the unknown mourner at every funeral.”. Fancy words, to say that government isn’t supposed to become our be-all-end-all granting every wish.
President Ronald Reagan followed suit in a speech in which he said, “where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves”. Whether by elected officials or just bureaucrats trying to exercise their authority, nanny state government get all up in our business and begin defining the governments version of daily life.
You may recall when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg became a bit antsy about constituents to imbibing far too many sugary soft drinks. In 2013 Bloomberg decided that no one should be allowed to get the biggie-size of a soft drink because, well, that’s just too dangerous. Bloombergs plan was to ban the sale of soft drinks in containers larger than sixteen ounces that contain sugar, unless it was seventy percent fruit juice or milk. All anyone had to do was buy two sixteen ounce sugary beverages…..but hey, Bloomberg was there for ya!
Back in 2017, Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, was facing a crime epidemic. Local businesses began putting up bulletproof plexiglass barriers to protect cashiers. One local official, indignantly claimed that the issue was not one of government failing to provide adequate essential policing. Instead, she blamed the businesses who dared to create the “indignity” of serving patrons through a plexiglass shield which she believed was only being done in “certain neighborhoods”. Being the small government icon that she was Democrat Philadelphia Councilwoman Cindy Bass sponsored local legislation that would have banned plexiglass. She gets high marks for trying to be a nanny. The trend continues as Philadelphia just passed a ban on ski masks to stop crime. Never mind actual policing, just require faces and take the bullet!
Lest you think that the nanny state only exists in the bluest of blue governments, think again. One of the nanniest examples of nanny state actions just came to be right here in good ol’ red state Alabama.
I will admit that distracted driving is a bad thing. But I defy someone to tell me how law enforcement in the City of Huntsville is going to effectively enforce a new ban.
Recently passed state law says that if law enforcement observes otherwise reckless driving that they can add the lesser offense of distracted driving. Basically, state troopers will not pull you over if you drive by with something looking like a phone in your hand. The phone would be a lesser offense added on if in fact you are driving in a reckless or illegal manner. Nannyish, but still…
But not the City of Huntsville. Oh no, the Huntsville City Council just went full on nanny-mode and passed a total ban on driving while touching your phone. Effective January 1st, 2024 the Huntsville City Council has approved a plan foisted upon us by Councilman David Little that far exceeds state law. Police are to begin issuing citations if you are seen with a phone in your hand while driving. The holding of the phone can be the primary offense, meaning that you can drive the speed limit, use your blinker, stop at all stop signs, and still be pulled over because you were on the phone telling the wife that you are picking up dinner on the way home.
The first conviction is a $50 fine, a second conviction can be up to $100, a third conviction within 24 months is a $150 fine and up to 10-days in jail, but if your cellphone rap sheet keeps going you could face up to 30 days in jail!
Don’t worry, you can hold a coffee cup, a book, surf the playlist on your dash and turn your music up so loud you can’t hear the traffic, but by God, don’t touch that phone as you cross over the invisible line from Madison to Huntsville.
The Huntsville government, in its wisdom has presumed guilt by virtue of touching a phone. Never mind that you were driving well at the time.
Watch out for the city limits signs in the Huntsville area. The nanny state just came to Alabama. I feel certain that we’re about to have to take down our plexiglass and stop buying big soft drinks.
Phil Williams is a former State Senator, retired Army Colonel and combat veteran, and a practicing Attorney. He previously served with the leadership of the Alabama Policy Institute in Birmingham. Phil currently hosts the conservative news/talkshow Rightside Radio M-F 2-5 pm on multiple channels throughout north Alabama. (WVNN 92.5FM/770AM-Huntsville/Athens; WXJC 101.FM and WYDE 850AM – Birmingham/Cullman.) His column appears weekly throughout Alabama. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of this news source. To contact Phil or request him for a speaking engagement go to www.rightsideradio.org.