The Nanny State Builds A Drunk Tank

A news story in this morning’s Torygraph about trying to cut down on the phenomenon of “binge drinking” caught my eye.  It is almost certainly doomed to failure, based on a lack of understanding of the present, deplorable state of Western civilization.  It is a superb manifestation of some of the well-intended but fundamentally unsound assumptions of the nanny state, and though this is taking place in Britain the thinking behind it is not so far removed from our own experience of the nanny state in the U.S. that it would be impossible to imagine here.

Authorities in the Welsh capital city of Cardiff will now begin to film intoxicated patients visiting a new medical clinic in the city center, opened to take the pressure off of local hospital emergency rooms.  Apparently 60% of the patients seen in these local hospitals on weekends are there because of alcohol-related illness or injury due to binge drinking.  The prevalence of this practice, particularly among young people, and the general attitude of either, “What can you do?” or “It’s no big deal,” is something I witnessed many times when I lived in London.

However, while that may seem like a good reason to open a clinic specifically for anti-social future alcoholics, there are some problems with this plan from the get-go.

For starters, patients entering this clinic will not be compelled to watch the film taken of their intoxicated appearance.  They will be able to take a look at it, if they wish, once they have reached some level of sobriety while still at the clinic, but only then.  This begs the question of how many people are going to want to voluntarily sit down, at the conclusion of a very rough night out where they ended up in hospital, to take a look at themselves vomiting or passed out?  Surely they will want to get home and crawl into bed, not sit around talking about their feelings or why they drink.

Moreover, the films are supposed going to be destroyed once the patient leaves the clinic, which means that even if they had a change of heart, the patients cannot come back later to view them.  This policy is also to prevent the films from being used for comedic purposes on social media sites, and is certainly laudable in theory.  However, I can guarantee you that, human nature and bureaucracy being what it is, it is only a matter of time before some of the more egregious videos start showing up on YouTube, or on The Daily Mail’s website.

I am deeply skeptical of this measure proving to be anything other than a waste of time and resources, whether in Cardiff or indeed anywhere else where one might see this sort of behavior, such as just about anywhere where American college students go for Spring Break.  Over the past twenty years in the West, we have created a culture which glorifies anti-social behavior in its entertainment, and then encourages people to behave in appalling ways toward themselves and toward other people, for fun and profit. Take a look at yesterday’s news report out of Delaware, for example, where daycare workers were caught trying to persuade toddlers to fight each other so that their exploits could be filmed.

And because everything is now relative, with no moral absolutes, no one has the right to tell anyone else that what they are doing is wrong. So long as the binge drinker is not dropping their bodily fluids on MY doorstep, this line of thinking goes, I must keep my mouth shut.  Their personal difficulties, which have led them into substance abuse, prevent anyone from criticizing or penalizing their behavior, because hurting their feelings is worse than their destroying private property, for example.

The truth is that young people who are given no direction or structure by their parents, teachers, and the state, are going to continue to behave this way, so long as we continue to believe that the only standards of behavior are those which happen to be popular. The new generation of drunks has no incentive or motivation to behave in public, since they have been brought up to believe they have no reason to do so in private, either.  No doubt it will be a good thing for the people of Cardiff to have what will be, in effect, a new drunk tank, where they can dump all of the alcoholics together in one place until they cool off.  Despite the effort however, I suspect it will do little or nothing to stem the practice.

Detail of “The March of the Guards to Finchley” by William Hogarth (1750)
Foundling Hospital Museum, London

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