Bob Barr

The origins of the term “Nanny State” can be traced back to British Member of Parliament Ian Macleod, who in 1965 penned a column under the name “Quoodle” for The Spectator. “In my occasional appearances as a poor man's Peter Simple I fire salvos in the direction of what I call the Nanny State,” wrote Quoodle, before taking shots at various British ministers -- in particular the Minister of Transport who recently had proposed a 70-mph speed limit on British motorways. Macleod also awarded medals for “resistance to Nanny” to organizations that objected to the creep of government paternalism.

I have a feeling The Right Honorable Mr. Macleod and I would have gotten along quite well.

However, a 70-mph speed limit and calls to limit homebuilding seem rather benign in today’s post-9/11 world of unchecked government snooping, invasive TSA “freedom pats,” and the continuing nightmare of ObamaCare. “Nanny State” barely begins to describe the unhealthy relationship between today’s citizens and their government. The term “Warden State” is more apt, especially under the Obama Administration.

The effects of this expansive government paternalism are not without cultural consequences, either. As government discovers more and more areas in our private lives in which to insert itself under the guise of “Nanny knows best,” people grow accustomed to -- if not reliant on -- its presence. Slowly but surely, people forget how to be free; even grow to fear the “risk” in being free. It makes for a society more prone to – perhaps even more comfortable in -- restricting rights, than protecting them as was envisioned by our Founders.

Last week, for example, judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that administrators in a northern California high school acted appropriately in prohibiting students from wearing patriotic clothing during the school’s celebration of Cinco de Mayo; a Mexican holiday not even – or perhaps not quite yet – officially recognized by the United States. School officials reportedly feared the display of American flags on students’ shirts would incite racial tensions among the students. Common sense, of course, would suggest that if potential violence were a factor, the holiday celebration should be canceled. Instead, the school canceled the First Amendment rights of its American students.

Bob Barr

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.