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The London Times is said to have claimed that they would prefer to take their chance with the cholera than be bullied into health by Mr Chadwick. The notion of the “nanny state” clearly has a long pedigree. The argument rumbled on in Europe throughout the 19th century about the appropriate role for the state: minimalist, only concerned with property rights, or interventionist on behalf of social justice and a phenomenon called society, protector of the weak, the poor, the young, the aged and infirm, giving voice to the underdog. In the contemporary climate of neo-liberal global economics, the same arguments are current. We accept that individuals have no chance to deal with bioterrorism and outbreaks of SARS or natural disasters, but how much more chance do they have when faced with the concerted efforts of commercial outfits whose sole aim is to maximise the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, junk food or couch-potato promoting motorcars. Where would Edwin Chadwick stand today on these issues? It’s not difficult to guess what the London Times would have to say.
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