Nanny State Policies and Their Side Effects
Matthew Kahn writes about safety precautions that can do more harm than good because they lull people into complacency:
Child proof safety caps on medicine lull people into not hiding medicine from kids and kids break into the pills. Diabetic medicines for fighting high blood sugar lull diabetics into thinking they can eat lots of sweets.
In the rest of the post, he applies this idea to climate change policies.
Kahn’s insight relates to many facets of the nanny-state agenda, such as smoking bans and caloric restrictions on restaurant food. When restaurant patrons believe that their dining experience is sufficiently regulated to optimize health and safety, they won’t go out of their way to look for the most nutritious menus or the cleanest environments. While some people might be brought up to a higher level of health by the imposed standard, others might make worse choices than they would if they were on their guard.
I would expect complacency to be a negative side effect of most policies, but in some cases it could actually be a good thing. For example, Springfield local food advocates are really worked up about an impending economic collapse:
A food policy council should be created in the Springfield metro area because it would trigger an increase in the local food supply and protect the region if a catastrophic event severed the Ozarks’ national and global food link.
If something so disastrous happened that we couldn’t even bring food into Springfield, I doubt a defenseless community garden would survive unscathed. And even if the garden remained intact, the catastrophe would have to be remarkably well-timed to strike during those months when food can be harvested in Missouri.
I’m not a fan of farms on public land, but if a little garden can get these people to calm down and stop seeing the end of the global food system in the shadow of every tomato leaf, it might be worth it. (That’s assuming they really would be lulled into complacency and wouldn’t just proceed to demand more gardens.)