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Author Topic: In Europe, America is the nanny state  (Read 1741 times)
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Victor Laslow
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« on: February 20, 2013, 02:37:25 PM »

An Email from the Desk of:
Steve Elliott, Grassfire

This weekend, I was confronted by a startling revelation.

In Europe,
America is the nanny state.

I know that here, on this side of the pond, we view our European cousins as the true socialists. We think Europe is further down the slippery slope of statism, and we look to them as the (bad) example of where our nation is rapidly headed. But to Europeans, one of the outstanding and “lampoon-able” characteristics of America is that we are the ultimate nanny state.

I learned this from a dear friend who was visiting from Germany. My friend (I’ll call him Dietrich) is no America hater. Quite the contrary. He has deep affinity for America, having spent a year with our family as a foreign-exchange student in the 70s and also having logged months of travel in the States. He admires much about our country and our people and thoroughly enjoys his time here. He even knows our history, perhaps better than most Americans, and keeps abreast of current events.

+ + “You Have A Warning ... For Everything”

In our discussions, I learned something about the European view of America that I really didn’t expect. “You have a warning label or sign for everything,” he noted. And he had examples from his travels.
He told me about a warning sign and fence that he saw near a seaside cliff while visiting Hawaii recently. “In Europe, we would not have such silly signs,” he said. “It’s common sense that I will tumble over and die if I fall off the cliff. Plus we do not want to spoil the view.”
Dietrich then proceeded to inform me that America’s propensity for warning labels is one of the most common punchlines for European comedians. They lampoon our need to be warned and forewarned for every possible contingency.
I shared with Dietrich that things are so bad that the agency responsible for national defense within our borders (the Department of Homeland Security) actually issued a long list of safety guidelines for winter storms, which included “walk carefully on snowy/icy, walkways, and try to stay indoors.” Dietrich chuckled.

I also mentioned the classic “McDonald’s Coffee Case” in which a litigant was awarded $640,000 after scalding herself with McDonald’s coffee. Even though the cup had a warning label, the warning was deemed to be not large enough, nor prominent enough.

My wife chimed in on the “warning” that came with our new oven, which told us not to use it around “pet birds.” (Apparently, the oven poses an insufficient threat to dogs, cats, snakes, gerbils, hamsters and other household pets to warrant specific mention.) Just for laughs, I mentioned the toothbrush that humorously warns to “use the fuzzy end.”

I told Dietrich we had an expression for this: the nanny state. He had not heard of the phrase, but immediately knew what it meant and that it fit the European stereotype of the U.S. What followed was a stimulating discussion about how the reality that America has become a nanny state is greatly disturbing to many Americans. We discussed how the U.S. has strayed from its roots of living under a Constitution with a basic premise of “self government” (another phrase he was unfamiliar with but really liked).

+ + Tough Pill To Swallow

The entire conversation was difficult for me to swallow. That this land of liberty and of brave frontiers and of religious freedom and of bold entrepreneurship was now known the world over for its propensity to warn for every possible contingency. It's a sobering reality-check on where we are as a nation and as a people.

The good news is that we were able to spend time with Dietrich and counter the stereotype. We took him to nearby Colonial Williamsburg and reflected on the courage and tenacity of our Founding Fathers -- who, from nothing, built the cornerstones of this great nation.

I showed him the Wythe House, where Thomas Jefferson and other American patriarchs were literally home schooled and trained in the principles of liberty. We saw the House of Burgesses where Patrick Henry rose among his colleagues and delivered his stirring “Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death” speech which helped inspire Virginia. This is the real America.

Hopefully, Dietrich’s quick glimpse into the daily life of my family confirmed that the spirit of American enterprise we saw in Williamsburg is still alive today.

+ + We Will Build!

I shared with my friend what happened after the presidential election with my “letter to exiles” and how we’re seeing a rising tide of Americans who are shaking off the slumber of our “progressive/socialist” ways.

I told Dietrich about the woman who recently shared with me how, despite severe personal and financial challenges, she decided to start building again after reading Thriving In Exile. Specifically, she picked up a brush and painted her bedroom. In the face of discouragement and despair, such an act is a bold stroke.

Another friend told me just today that the same "letter to exiles" caused him to pick up his pen and re-engage the political debate he had left in frustration more than two years ago.

I told Dietrich that I have a deep excitement within me to build, and we feel it every day here in the Grassfire offices. We’re trying more new things now than at any time in our history. One small example: just last week our staff created, in a matter of hours, an e-book of the President’s State of the Union address and the Republican response from Sen. Marco Rubio — just because we thought it would be more useful to read their speeches in that digital format. Now, we’ve “turned the wheel” and can create e-books very rapidly.

Another example: we’ve launched a new section on LibertyNEWS called HealthWire, and our Valentine’s Day report featured an extremely well-written piece on the health benefits of … wait for it … chocolate! All this is happening while we're also delivering nearly 200,000 personal messages to members of Congress on behalf of Grassfire team members; producing cutting-edge video resources like our Ronald Reagan tribute; working with a partner organization to stop human trafficking; and preparing for the launch of what may be the single largest grassroots initiative in our history -- one that provides real solutions to the fiscal and economic crisis gripping our nation (details to follow).

I trust that Dietrich boarded his plane back to Berlin yesterday with both historical and real-life practical answers to defeat the “America is a nanny state” stereotype. Yes, there's much work to be done here in political and cultural exile. Things are so bad in our nation that the world now laughs at us for becoming a nanny state. But the seeds of renewal are being planted all across this land in our response to this season of exile, and Grassfire has a determination to build, plant, bless and pray despite the storm we see swirling around us.

Thanks for all you’re doing, and Let’s Build!

P.S. I'd love to know what you think about America as a "nanny state." Please visit my blog to share your comments at the bottom of the page.

P.P.S. My new book Thriving In Exile explains how you can prosper in tough times. Grassfire will gladly send you two copies of this inspiring and encouraging resource in appreciation for your contribution of any amount. Click here to order.

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