Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pervasive love of the Nanny State

Below is a circular from Greg Lindsay of the Centre for Independent Studies, dated November 9. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. The idea that ANY Australian supermarket does not sell fresh produce is truly remarkable. A classical example of how simplistic theories trump facts among Leftists. The major supermarkets have a huge range of produce wherever they are and even mini-markets have some

Conversations at dinner parties often reflect the fashion and fads of the moment. House prices, schools, the GFC, climate change, and refugees—all have cropped up over the past few years. Lately, it’s the so-called 'obesity epidemic.'

No contemporary issue divides the people who believe in personal choice and responsibility from those who think government should be constantly at our elbows, as it were, nudging our hands away from the salt, butter, eggs, meat, etc.

A recent conversation I had with a dinner companion went something like this.

Dinner Companion: 'I accept that markets are the best way of supplying goods and services for people, but what about the less well-off people who are not eating properly?'

GL: 'What do you mean?'

DC: ‘Oh I don't mean people who live around here who have access to fruit and vegetables but those who live out in (suburb) X where the supermarkets don't stock fresh fruit and vegetables.'

GL: 'They don't?' DC: 'No, they don't.' GL: 'I don't believe you.' DC: 'It's true!'

And so on.

The serious but bizarre suggestion that followed was that the government should force retail outlets in less affluent areas to sell fresh fruit and vegetable and also compel the less well off to buy them ‘for their own good.’

So I checked with the supermarkets located in suburb X. And yes, they do stock plenty of fresh produce. So presumably enough people are buying fruit and vegetables, and no wonder. For as long as I can remember, taxpayer-funded health campaigns have been preaching the benefits of healthy diets.

If there is a legitimate role of government here, it may be to disseminate important public information so people can make informed decisions. But now this seems to be morphing into something altogether different. My dinner companion’s attitude to the Nanny State demonstrated the soft authoritarian streak that is pervading society.

It would appear that we can’t leave it up to individuals to make rational decisions about what is in their best interests. Indeed, it’s now the government’s job to treat us like infants in the high chair and make sure we eat our vegetables! Moreover, if there is a growing issue, such as obesity, overstating the case as my dinner companion did can trivialise it and the public loses interest. (Climate change alarmists for instance are increasingly guilty of this.)

The problem, of course, is that ultimately this attitude is self-defeating. Social theorists call the phenomena ‘learned helplessness.’ The more government does, the less responsible people need to be, and the less responsible they end up becoming. And ever-bigger becomes the role of governments in our lives.

Cervical cancer wiped out by pioneering use of 'amazing' osteoporosis drugs

Cervical cancer can be destroyed by drugs used to treat breast cancer and osteoporosis, a study suggests. In results described as 'amazing' by researchers, one of the treatments eliminated the cancer in 11 out of 13 cases.

The results are hugely important because, despite advances in medicine, cervical cancer still affects almost 3,000 British women a year and kills more than 1,000. Half a million women are diagnosed with it each year worldwide, but only 50 per cent will survive. Britain and other countries have recently started to vaccinate teenage girls against the cancer. But the programme is in its infancy and the jab will not prevent all cases.

The latest research centres on fulvestrant, which is normally used to treat breast cancer, and raloxifene, used for osteoporosis. Importantly, the drugs have already been deemed safe for use, meaning they could be marketed as cervical cancer treatments much more quickly than newly-discovered medicines.

The initial results come from experiments in mice. But if the success is repeated in women, the drugs could be in widespread use as cervical cancer treatments within just five years.

The researchers, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the U.S., started by showing that the growth of cervical tumours, like many breast cancers, is fuelled by the sex hormone oestrogen. Fulvestrant and raloxifene are known to cut off the supply, so the researchers gave them to mice that had been genetically-engineered to develop the cancer. After a month, 11 of the 13 mice given fulvestrant lost all signs of cancer. But the disease remained in untreated animals, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports. Raloxifene gave similar results, proving the importance of oestrogen to cervical cancer. Finally, the researchers showed that the drugs can also eradicate pre-cancerous growths - abnormal cells that if left untreated could turn cancerous.

Researcher Professor Paul Lambert said: 'It was amazing to see that not only was the cancer gone but all the pre-cancerous lesions that give rise to cancer were also gone. 'Simply put, oestrogen is effectively acting as a growth factor or "fuel". If you remove its function, the cancer regresses. 'Why the cancer literally appears to disappear or "die" is still a remarkable aspect of our findings that we cannot explain at a molecular level as of yet. 'Studies are under way to understand the mechanism.'

The professor is also testing the drugs on human cells in the lab and is optimistic they will one day be used to treat women with cervical cancer. He said: 'We have begun to test whether the drugs are as effective in treating cervical cancer in human cells as they are in our mice. 'We can't be sure how the science will translate from animals to humans but we have faith in our mouse model. 'There are many similarities in how cervical cancer develops and manifests itself in women and in mice.'

If shown to be effective in women with cervical cancer, the drugs are likely to be used to tackle tumours that have recurred despite conventional treatments such as surgery or radiotherapy. They might also be given to stop the disease returning in the first place. Long-term treatment might be necessary to keep the cancer at bay.


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