Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nanny governments, should I get one too?

As an American who has lived in two and a half other western countries, Scotland*, New Zealand, and South Africa, I have always found that people from those countries have a much greater comfort level with big government than I do. Blanket statements are always crude, but most of them seem to accept the idea that government is there to take care of them as a life-long Nanny might do. Most feel entitled to free education (even at the University level), healthcare, water, and even in some cases housing. They argue that government must supply such things because they are basic human rights, or because it is a matter of equality, or because the poor will suffer without them.

I don't quibble with the values behind any of these reasons. I'm a big fan of human rights, equality, and helping the poor. But strangely enough I can't really personally identify with the sense of entitlement of my foreign friends.

I don't feel that government owes me a free university education.
I don't feel that government owes me healthcare.
I don't feel that government owes me free water, or housing, or welfare checks if I don't have a job, or even a monthly Social Security check when I retire.

Why this is the case I'm not really sure. And while in the company of those with such senses of entitlement I do feel rather strange. Yet perhaps even more strangely I don't feel any urge to adopt such a sense of entitlement, though it would obviously be to my benefit to do so.

In fact I usually feel rather ashamed when I ask someone else to do something for me and even somewhat annoyed when someone claims to be doing something 'for my own good.' Flowing, naturally I think, from these feelings is my general inclination to provide for myself, help others who haven't been as lucky as me, and be suspicious of, or at least uncomfortable with, those who claim an interest in protecting me or giving me stuff. So if given the choice between having the government provide something for me or others by taxing me and keeping my money and doing that thing myself I will usually opt for the later.

Am I weird? Should I be more willing to let the government do stuff for me? Should I simply try harder to embrace dependency and entitlement like my non-American western friends by demanding my own Nanny?

*Yes I am aware that Scotland is not technically a country but I love the place and enjoy flattering it. As to South Africa being only half western, the statement is entirely complimentary. South Africa's multiculturalism is its greatest treasure.



  1. I think you'll find Scotland is most definitely a country! xxxx

  2. Yes, thank you but we don't need your "flattery"(!) we are technically, and in every sense a country.

  3. Thanks for the correction you two. I just checked and you are most certainly right Scotland, rather than being "not technically a country" is in fact "technically" one. But as to the "in every sense" I must dissent, Scotland certainly lacks many of the characteristics that we typically associate with an independent country.

    Nevertheless I appreciate your spirited Scottish defense.

  4. It's not about defense, just that you were wrong :) and what people typically associate with being a country has no bearing on fact. Independence is not something a place needs to be a country. You maybe just aren't informed enough on the UK.

  5. It looks like I must reverse myself again. I apparently I was right the first time, at least according to the Scottish Parliament. Here is how they answer the question "Is Scotland a country?"

    "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the full name of the country. Scotland is a kingdom within the United Kingdom (UK), and forms part of Britain (the largest island) and Great Britain (which includes the Scottish islands).
    As the UK has no written constitution in the usual sense, constitutional terminology is fraught with difficulties of interpretation and it is common usage nowadays to describe the four constituent parts of the UK (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland) as “countries”."

    here is the link-

    So apparently technically Scotland is a kingdom while being commonly known as a country.

  6. The fact that you have quoted the Scottish parliament just displays your sheer ignorance on this matter because as anyone knows the Scottish, Welsh and London parliaments all define Scotland, England and Wales as countries and the page you have quoted does nothing to dismiss that it merely states that it's complicated, not that they are not countries which they are legally obliged to do so as in certain international realms this can't be legally acknwledge because of the union. And if you'd bothered to look at the rest of their website (or any other UK parliamentary website) you'll find literally hundreds of articles and documents with "Scotland is a country" in them aswell as "England is a country" etc. What this comes down to is you confusing "country" with "independent country" and the way you choose to define a country. There are many ways to define a country but a place need only fit one definition for it to be fact and Scotland (aswell as England and Wales) most definitely fulfills more than one definition of country. So it is a country. It does not fulfill the definition of independent country but Scotland doesn't claim to be that. So I think you'll find you have to "reverse" again and accept that it is a country, independent or not. Of course you can choose to define a country by other means, say by saying it doesn't have a country code then it's not a country, but that doesn't change that it fits other definitions of a country. Scotland along with the rest of the UK has a long and rich history that did not fly out of the window a mere 200 hundred years ago when the treaty was signed. Scottish, English and Welsh people didn't suddenly abandon their flags, capital cities, languages and most importantly nationalities and declare "We are only British now" and burn the history books. Just because they came together in a union it does not discount or overrule their status as indiviual countries, independent countries yes, but not countries.
    The long and short of this is, however you subjectively choose to view Scotland, so long as Scottish people, the other members of the UK and the rest of the world for that matter define Soctland as a country(which they have every right to do so), instead of petulantly challenging it with your amateur knowledge on this subject you should, respectfully, do so aswell because in telling a person their country is not a country you're not only being incredibly ignorant and wrong but also incredibly rude.
    Just because Taiwan isn't legally seperate from China doesn't stop it being a country, an independent country yes but not a country. Technicalities are the refuge of the small minded.

  7. Thanks for your comment. I understand your position.

  8. I am South African and i don't have this sense of entitlement you speak of. i'm happy to provide for myself and find my own way. I do however understand where you are coming from, many South Africans really need to get their act together ans start being their own keepers. I see you have not provided a theory for this diference in cultures, if you have one please share with us ;)

  9. I came across this answer on another thread and thought it might help to educate you on the UK as I assume you are American? I may be wrong but I tend to find that people who contest the status of the countries within the UK tend to be fellow Americans over simplifying things due to a lack of knowledge. Anyway here it is, hope it helps.

    THE UNITED KINGDOM AND IRELAND (as it was once labeled), while technically correct if IRELAND is taken as the name of the country and not the island, can easily be misconstrued. THE UNITED KINGDOM AND THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND would not be correct since there is no country whose name is REPUBLIC OF IRELAND. THE UNITED KINGDOM AND ÉIRE is correct (two non-overlapping countries) but it contains a mixture of languages. Hence BRITAIN AND IRELAND (two non-overlapping islands) -- perhaps not quite adequate either since it might not encompass the various associated outlying islands.
    Let's begin by reviewing the terminology:

    BRITAIN, the largest island in the archipelago just north of France; the island of Britain contains three countries: ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, and WALES.

    ENGLAND is one of the countries of Britain.

    SCOTLAND is one of the countries of Britain.

    WALES is one of the countries of Britain.

    NORTHERN IRELAND is a jurisdiction having approximately the same status as England, Scotland, and Wales, but on a different island.

    The UNITED KINGDOM is the union of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, including whatever islands are also included in those countries. The full name of the United Kingdom is THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND. The United Kingdom itself is a country. Thus it is a country that is made up of four countries. A country made of countries might seem a paradox, yet the countries that make up the UK, especially England, Scotland, and Wales, do not think of themselves as anything less; Scotland has its own Parliament and banknotes, Wales has its own language and National Assembly, all three have national identities going back more than a thousand years, and the Encyclopedia Britannica calls them countries (next item). Perhaps more to the point, ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, WALES, and NORTHERN IRELAND are listed in the USPS Index of Countries and Localities. (According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term UNITED KINGDOM was first used in 1801 and, until 1921, included Ireland.)

    GREAT BRITAIN is a term that means different things to different people. Canada Post uses it as their only recognized name for the United Kingdom. Webster's dictionary defines "Britain" as "the island of Great Britain", and defines Great Britain as "(a) island comprising England, Scotland, and Wales, or (b) United Kingdom" (which in turn is defined to include Northern Ireland). The Encyclopedia Britannica says "Technically, Great Britain is one of the two main islands that make up the British Isles. By this definition it includes the countries of England, Scotland, and Wales. Popularly, Great Britain is the shortened name for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland." The OED says that Great Britain is "the whole island containing England, Wales, and Scotland, with their dependencies". William Wallace says, however, that the term "is actually a remnant of the Norman Conquest times, and was used to distinguish between Large Britain (Grande Bretagne) and Little Britain (Petite Bretagne, Brittany). It has nothing to do with Empire or world domination and simply refers to the time when the island was administered and fought over by the French." In any case, the ambiguity of the term Great Britain -- is it a country, an island, or a group of islands? -- suggests it is best avoided.

  10. My bad, i just actually read your post and you clearly say at the start you're American, was too engrossed in the comments