If you’ve ever lived in England, you’ve likely run into some of the over-the-top “health and safety” regulations.
One journalist remarked 15 years ago that the country “was on the verge of a permanent change in national character, with its inhabitants shifting in attitude from self-starting to supine, from proud to apologetic, from fiscally independent to fiscal supplicants.”
“For many years we have taken our children to the Enchanted Forest at Groom-bridge Place near Tonbridge, Kent. The main attraction up until now has been the giant swings which hang from huge oaks in the forest and which have provided an exhilarating ride for parent and child alike for years.
On approaching the swings this year we were greeted by a thicket of signs prohibiting children under ten from using them, forbidding parents from pushing anyone on the swing, banning more than one person from taking a ride at the same time, and ordering the swing user to sit down at all times.
A fellow with a walkie talkie was there to make sure the rules were obeyed and some of the swings had been decommissioned because they could not all be staffed by “swing enforcers” or whatever they are called.
Had there been a cataclysmic incident that had prompted the new restrictions? I asked.
“No,” walkie talkie man replied as my ten-year-old sat limply on his swing, rocking pitifully in an attempt to get it moving. “I think the management was just getting in line with health and safety.””
Over time, people started making up their own health and safety rules to further curtail personal freedoms and responsibility for your actions. It got to the point that even government ministers spoke out and asked people to calm down with the over-the-top rules.
The same trend can be found in the U.S., though it’s still less extreme here. For instance, some universities that have annual bonfires are now placing multiple layers of fencing with security between the students and the bonfires, in case one of them gets too close to the fire. Let’s be honest here: if you’re too stupid to stay away from a giant fire, you probably shouldn’t be going to college.
Or the fact that there are railings being built in public parks, for instance at Horseshoe Bend in Arizona. Once again, if you’re an adult, it’s your own responsibility to stay far enough away from a cliff to not fall in, and if you’re a kid, it’s your parent’s responsibility (although most kids will figure that out anyway).
I think this growing obsession with health and safety and minimizing risk and freedom comes from the increased socialization of healthcare.
In the UK, it is your business if your neighbor is a smoker, because you have to pay into a socialized healthcare system that take cares of them when they get cancer. If some kid falls off a cliff and breaks his bones because his parents weren’t paying attention and doing their job, you have to pay for his medical bills through your taxes. This creates a society of fearful snitches who police each other’s behavior and tell you what you can and cannot do.
Unsurprisingly, the “Health and Safety Executive” was created in the UK in 1975, about a generation after the founding of the NHS.
In the U.S., there are now around 74 million people dependent on the government for their healthcare needs through medicaid, and over 52 million through medicare. Some of those overlap, but many do not. In all, about a third of the country is dependent on the government. i.e. socialized healthcare. It’s not as bad as the UK yet, but it’s not far behind, and within a decade or two we’ll probably see an NHS in the U.S. too, and with it, more and more health and safety regulations about what you can and cannot do. Millions of little rules that cut into peoples’ freedoms, rendering them into dependent, unthinking, risk-averse, irresponsible, and boring people.
The whole point of health is to be able to enjoy living life. If health comes at the cost of being a miser, we should really take a good, hard look at what the government is doing to society and our way of thinking with its programs.