C: Thomas Franke (Unsplash)

Wine, cancer, and the insufferable Irish nanny state

A leftover from earlier in the week, but, since I am presently in Italy, this seems as good a time as any to side with our Italian friends against the increasingly insufferable Irish state:

The Italian foreign minister has decried Irish plans to place cancer warnings on wine bottles as an “attack” on his country’s identity and heritage, escalating a row over health labelling to a full diplomatic spat.

The brouhaha stems from the Government’s plans to introduce warning labels on alcohol that will break new ground in labelling by mentioning a link between drinking alcohol and cancer.

Does alcohol, consumed in excess, cause cancer? Yes, it does. But then the list of things, done to excess, that might or might not cause cancer is almost exhaustive. What should be clear to anyone with even half a brain is that drinking a bottle of chianti over dinner is not going to be the difference between you getting cancer, and you not getting cancer.

What it is a reminder of, however, is that the Government is everywhere. It is at your dinner table, hectoring you about your choice of drink. It is on the radio, hectoring you about seatbelts and facemasks and sitting far away from strangers. It is on the television, hectoring you about sexual harassment. It is in the newspapers, hectoring you about climate change. There is no escape, none, from mammy Government, and its interminable and unending reminder that you, and your behaviours, are the problem. And that you must change, while it never does.

When did we become accustomed, and happy, to being treated like naughty children, every day of the week, and when did we start welcoming it?

On the face of it, many people will argue, and many more will simply believe without arguing, that all of this is harmless, and that yours truly is just a crank, looking for something to complain about. After all, if a warning on a wine bottle causes even one person to reconsider an existing unhealthy relationship with alcohol, isn’t that a net positive?

Well, no.

In the first instance, note that the standard of evidence required for Government to intervene in your life has all but evaporated. There is no longer a need for public debate, and scientific evidence conclusively showing that warnings on wine bottles will save lives. The burden of proof is always now on those opposing any Government action to show that it is harmful, and not the other way around.

Second, this kind of nannyism has become a substitute for any actual delivery of net benefits in the traditional way: It is, effectively, a way for politicians to pretend to be taking action on cancer without ever taking any actual action on cancer. You don’t need to invest any energy in reforming the health service to better improve cancer treatments if you can, in effect, blame cancer on the public and get them to “take responsibility”.

Third, these interventions are used selectively – I joke, but only a little, that it’ll be a long time before the Government puts warnings on ballot papers reading “voting may be harmful to your paycheck”. More seriously, thinking back to covid, there was no Government warning about the very real impact that facemask wearing in schools might have on young children’s psycho-social development.

Fourth, these interventions empower, with no exaggeration, the very worst people in our society. They are a curtain-twitcher’s charter. And the modern curtain twitchers are the armada of NGOs and lobby groups on public health and other issues who must always and ever find new problems to warn the public about, in case anyone ever thought that all their funding wasn’t strictly necessary.

It is ironic, after all, that a society which prides itself so effusively on escaping the moralising clutches of the Roman Church should be so eager to constantly warn and preen and prance about the dangers of people’s new, liberated lifestyles: Consent classes for teenagers telling them what precise form of words to use before having sex; A frankly absurdist proposal to ban flavoured vape juices (though no law can prevent a shop selling you plain vape juice, and some food flavouring to use as you see fit); And now warnings on bottles of wine.

We’ve gone from an awful right wing Catholic society that sees people’s life choices as dangerous and immoral and something that needs constant denunciation to….. this, I guess.

Perhaps I am alone in finding it both insufferable, and also a terrible way to spend the hard earned money forked over, in their foolishness, by taxpayers. Or perhaps I am not. Either way, the Italians are, as in so much else, entirely correct. And the Irish Government is, as in so much else, increasingly hard for any reasonable person to bear.

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