Mr. Badman and the NICE PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ben Merkle   
Monday, 16 November 2009 15:46

The United Kingdom’s Department of Health and Safety has given power to local council workers to inspect English homes with the goal of ensuring that parents are providing a safe home environment for English children. Inspectors will be able to check that the smoke detectors are functional, that stairs have gates at the top, that the hot water heaters don’t get too hot, etc. . . The organization tasked with penning the guidelines for these inspectors will be, and I am really not making this up, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence – abbreviated as the NICE (obviously the acronym Niche would have restricted their powers too much). Straight out of That Hideous Strength, that one is. Last year, Parliament commissioned a report on homeschooling in the UK. The report came back recommending a number of draconian restrictions for homeschooling, including the suggestion that social workers be given the task of regularly interviewing homeschooling children apart from their parents to look for any instances of abuse. The man who led this investigation, and again I am not making this up, is named Mr. Badman.

I have lived in the UK for the past three years and I have grown somewhat accustomed to the astonishing loss of personal liberty that England has allowed. I remember scandalizing the housekeepers who cleaned our first house, when they found out that I had been changing my own light bulbs instead of having the maintenance man do the job for me. “Oh, you can’t do that sir. We’d be in trouble with Health and Safety if they found out.” Last year I requested a certain volume from the Bodleian, a rare sixteenth century work that was in the Duke Humphries library. When I went to pick up the book, I was told by an apologetic librarian that the book could not be retrieved for me because Health and Safety had confiscated the library’s ladders. I stood silent and bug-eyed for a while, as the librarian pointed to the balcony where the book was sitting. Apparently, in order to reach that book, the librarian would need to go up two steps on the ladder. But Health and Safety had come in recently and had thought that their ladders were unsafe and had confiscated them. So my book would not be available for probably another year, as they were going to need to have new, Health and Safety approved, ladders constructed.

I am never sure whether I should be more terrified by the extent of the English government’s overreach and unchecked invasiveness or by the docile acquiescence of the English people to these ridiculous impositions of the nanny-state. Of course if I express my amazement at the situation the response is always to point out that I am an American (and a north Idaho American at that) and therefore prone to brash individualism and general tackiness. But when the nation that produced C.S. Lewis starts taking orders from the NICE to go in and inspect whether people have their hot water heaters turned up too hot and when Mr. Badman instructs parliament to take homeschooling children into the other room to ask them questions about their parents, then this is not just me being North Idaho provincial. This is objectively ludicrous.

Of course I am fully aware that England has not gone anywhere that America isn’t perfectly ready to follow. And by the time that Mr. Badman and the NICE are knocking on our door, we won’t even be able to appreciate the humor of it.


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