Monday, June 20, 2011

Dammit, Janet, am I parent or child?

Janet Street-Porter's column in yesterday's Independent On Sunday was a logical car crash, except that her intellect seems to have had a head-on collision with itself.

In celebrating Father's Day, she begins by praising parents as "unsung heroes" and ends by concluding that the solution to society's ills is for government to take on the responsibility that parents are seemingly incapable of exercising for themselves.

Having criticised politicians for blaming society's ills on parents, she then suggests that the solution to boozy Britain is to regulate the price of alcohol, which is mostly an attack on adult drinkers who can't be trusted to regulate their own alcohol intake. Grown-ups, who should be left to make their own decisions, will thus be penalised for the government's failure to police existing laws to prevent under-age drinking. Who suffers? The poor. And if those parents are irresponsible alcoholics, the only effect will be more money being extracted from adult drinkers by the government, leaving them less to spend on their children.

Street-Porter seems unable to make a point without contradicting herself. Having stated that "the vast majority [of modern teenagers] drink exactly as I did at their age," she then states in the very next sentence: "The simple reason why many kids drink today is because drink is everywhere." So, if it wasn't a problem then, why is now? Why do we need to "impose a strict price per unit of alcohol, a move demanded by every important medical body in the UK"?

Medical organisations have no expertise in this field. They might know about the medical effects of alcohol, but they are not remotely qualified to pontificate on how pricing affects behaviour, still less on whether treating adults like children is sound social policy. Her article is shot through with the absolute belief that parents are incapable of looking after their children and that the government needs to step in.

Having urged politicians and commentators to get off parents' backs, Street-Porter then urges them to leap right back on our backs with more heavy-handed, micro-management regulation of individual behaviour. She starts by lambasting those who criticise parents and ends by joining their ranks.

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