Who's Afraid of the Nanny State? Introduction to a Symposium
Public Health, Vol. 129, No. 8, pp. 1017-1020, 2015
5 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2015
Date Written: September 17, 2015
The ‘nanny state’ has become a powerful symbol in debates about the merits of public health policies. In rhetorical terms, associating a policy proposal with the nanny state is to disparage and spoil it, at least in western, liberal democracies where individuals have become highly sensitised to the risks of state intrusion into the private domain. Debates about the nanny state are not new. However, they have a particular salience when it comes to laws and policies for reducing behavioural or lifestyle-related risk factors including tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, poor diet and obesity.
This paper introduces a symposium of 10 papers published in Public Health, the Journal of the Royal Society for Public Health (UK): 2015; 129(8): 1015-1134. It reviews key themes and arguments from each paper. The contributions come from authors in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand who draw on a variety of disciplines including public health, law, philosophy, bioethics, and marketing. One motivation for the symposium was to provide an opportunity to explore and unpack the meaning of nanny state rhetoric, and where appropriate, to defend the role of governments in protecting the health of the population.
Keywords: Public health law, governance, nanny state, libertarianism, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), health
JEL Classification: K10, K30, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation