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Kraft durch freude....

Or 'Strength through joy', as the Nazi-era German is usually rendered. If there is one parallel that is overused, invoked far too lightly it is that of the Third Reich, but what else could this, from former Blair aide, Professor Julian Le Grand, chairman of Health England, be compared to? North Korea, the USSR, one of the more spartan public schools?

"A radical plan to improve the nation's health - including a workplace "exercise hour" - has been unveiled by a leading Government adviser....He proposed the introduction of a smoking permit, which smokers would be required to show each time they bought tobacco. It is then their choice to go smoke free and not buy a permit. Companies with more than 500 staff would have an " exercise hour". Employees would have to deliberately choose not to join in....In his speech...the professor". It is not like banning something, it's a softer form of paternalism". Source.

Where to start? Let us start with a cheap shot. The professor appears to have a broken nose, judging from the photo on his deeply uninformative web page. Perhaps he got it from rugby or another dangerous sport. Should he have been 'allowed' to imperil himself, put the medical business at cost, and perhaps have caused anxiety to whoever he was emotionally close to at the time?

The exercise hour. Would this time be added on to the working day, or would it come out of an employee's allotted hours? Would it be Japanese-style whole company physical jerks in the
car park followed by a heartfelt rendition of the company anthem? Or perhaps a nice gym for the upper management and compulsory sits ups for the machinists, salesmen etc etc? Why only companies with more than 500 staff? Might this be just another way of passing on the cost of public health on to the wealth creating sector? Would BP, M&S, Vodafone be in any way compensated for the loss of millions of productive man hours, or otherwise helped with the inevitable recruitment and retention problems that would stem from employees refusing to be infantilised? Would the opt outers have to work, and if so, who would supervise them, or could they just make a beeline for the nearest pub?

Smoking permits. Smokers are already subject to ruinous levels of tax, and under 18s are no longer allowed to buy cigarettes, cigars, loose tobacco, and for all I know snuff, despite being allowed to consent to sex, enlistment in Her Maj's forces etc etc, and retailers face hefty fines for breaching the law. Would these permits have quotas, and might civic minded non-smokers or non-smokers be prevailed upon to buy nicotine products for heavier users, recognising that enforced 'virtue' is no virtue at all.

It is not like banning something, it's a softer form of paternalism. No Professor, it is the slipperiest of slippery slopes, and it is an utter negation of the most basic concepts of freedom and personal autonomy. As a professor at the LSE, I hope the shades of Hayek, Popper, Seldon and Oakeshott (inter alia) will pursue him with pitchforks.

And over to another LSE bod, Shaw for the last word: "Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it".

(With thanks to comment maker Sexist Pedant for pointing out my misrendered headline)

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Blogger Ed said... 7:13 pm

The exercise hour should be done in front of the telescreen, monitored by Big Brother himself. BB can enforce the smoking and alcohol bans too.  

Anonymous sexist pedant said... 4:48 pm

Kraft durch Freude (singular), ol' boy. (I love pedantry). It also involved large numbers of young women doing graceful exercises rather than football, rugby etc. Rather better than the performance of our footballeuses in the recent girlie World Cup.  

Blogger Croydonian said... 5:04 pm

Well that will teach me to use half remembered phrases in German, not checking them but rather making reliance on an O level not far short of twice as old as I was when I sat it.

It will be corrected.  

Anonymous United pedants of the world said... 10:28 am

We are obliged.  

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