David Reynolds | The Nanny State

I just returned from the future. I believe I will stay with the present. Yes, I have been to the nanny state. Let’s keep Virginia the way she is. Our first governor was right. Give me liberty, or give me New Jersey.

Without responsibility, life is not worth living. The more responsibility the state assumes, the less you have. Life revolves around freedom. If you wish to slide away from free choices, slide to New Jersey.

Before you accuse me of picking on the over developed flatland between the Big Apple and Billy Penn’s place, please keep in mind that I never had a nanny. My parents from the coal fields of Northeast Pennsylvania could not afford one. So we would travel to New Jersey to explore the nanny state.

It all started when we stopped for gas in Jersey. I started pumping. Little did I know that the station attendant thought I had a gun in my hand rather than a gas nozzle. “I’ll do that,” he shouted. In the Garden State, as well as a state on the Left Coast, state law does not allow you to pump your own gas. Actually, Oregon allows more choices to end a life than to fill up a tank. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because a 99-year-old cripple could not pump her own. And that may have set, shall we say, the legislative wheels in motion.

Of course, nanny states love to make it harder for you to light up than, say, get high. (Go to Northern California.) Barbara Buono, an otherwise attractive New Jersey state senator, has introduced a bill to ban smoking along a 120-mile strip of sand known as the Jersey Shore. She thinks of the beach as a big ash tray to be put off-limits. However, not being a smoker, Ms. Buono does not know that God has already placed a severe hardship on lighting up. But ocean winds do not faze this nanny policymaker. There is also her concern that cigarette smoke could float over to her inland Middlesex County constituents. They live alongside the New Jersey Turnpike.

Want more? Get this. In New Jersey you can place your name on a list of those who can’t trust themselves not to gamble. If a casino fails to stop you from wandering into one of their palaces, the casino – not you – is fined. Last year Atlantic City’s Hilton Hotel & Casino was fined $10,000 for allowing a self-listed person to gamble. Hilton did not contest the fine! But it told its nanny state that it would not happen again.

Maybe we could have such a law for overweight Virginians. I’ve noticed that we have a growing number. If, as is the case, I have an addition for fast-food restaurants, I would give my name to the State Police and watch those extra pounds float away. And say good-bye to McDonald’s. Tim Kaine, are you listening? Please end my addiction.

However, it is not cheap to run a nanny state. New Jersey’s real-estate taxes are the nation’s highest. The property median is $6,380. Compare it with Virginia’s property taxes. Maybe the next time you receive a tax bill you won’t complain. I figured that just counting the oceanfront homes in the small town where we stayed brought in over $4 million to the local coffers.

Which brings me to corruption. New Jersey is a leader here, too. The last round up required a school bus to haul in all the crooks. The question is often asked: Why Jersey? Answer: New Jersey offers more opportunities. It has 631 municipalities. More government; more opportunities to corrupt.

In spite of the above, Jersey has two social redeeming values Virginia lacks. The state, along with 13 others, has no left handed drivers. That is, you get ticketed if you stay in the left passing lane of a four lane highway. Ben and Emmett, how about a bill for the hopper? It would make I-81 safer.

The other plus New Jersey has – along with 48 other states – is that governors are allowed to succeed themselves and thus run on their record. But Virginia enjoys being different more than being democratic. Gov. Corzine is seeking a second term. Here we have two candidates, both running hard, to be a one-term, lame-duck governor. So much for the Land of Jefferson.

Finally getting back to responsibility. If I ever grow old and wish to shed some, I have two choices. I can stay here and move into a costly retirement community. Or I can move to New Jersey. But I will need to break a couple of bad habits. I tend to wave while driving on the back roads and say hello to strangers while walking in town. I think I’ll stay right here in Virginia – without a nanny.


– Column by David Reynolds

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