Blogs, of course, have been at the forefront of this, unburdened by 'don't rock the boat' editorial policies; Constantly Furious has a good post about the creeping onset of the nanny state, and some blogs based their entire reason for existing on highlighting these areas.
Well now, two columns in - of all places - the Guardian's 'CiF' have begun to ask important questions.
Catherine Bennett looks at the way the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act was nodded through parliament 'for the children!':
Not once, on its journey towards the statute book, does a peer or MP appear to have expressed the objection that now unites critics from every side: that a presumption of malice on this scale can only poison relations between generations. Nor, extraordinarily, was there sustained pragmatic criticism, casting doubt on the impact of all this costly officialdom on reducing a crime that is usually committed within the family. Up to a point, you can understand their reluctance. It was a trick of Parmjit Dhanda's, the minister who bustled the bill through the Commons, to suggest that such critics wanted to make life cushier for paedophiles.So our lawmakers are either cowed, or lazy. And as a result, we get laws that practically sit up and beg the Law of Unintended Consequences to pounce...
Jackie Kemp relates some horror stories and a particular instance of her own:
The constant undermining of parental rights in these times, justified by one or two horror stories, is felt in every aspect of life. Recently I took my children to the swimming pool. Despite the fact that swimming is free for children where I live, we were the only people in the pool: I soon discovered why. Within 10 minutes, the lifeguard had blown her whistle three times. At one point my eight-year-old walked to the deep end and dived in. The whistle sounded. Treading water nearby, I inquired as to what we had done wrong. Despite the fact he had recently completed a course of lessons designed to improve his confidence, he had apparently not convinced her that he was capable of swimming 25 metres. "What's the danger?" I asked.It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that there are people who positively relish the holding of power over others; they don't all aspire to high office, some of them are perfectly content with being a traffic warden, council worker or lifeguard. We've always had a small number of such people among us, and I don't believe the number has significantly grown as a percentage of the population.
"The danger is that the pool is full of water," she replied. It appeared that the lifeguards saw themselves as heroically foiling my constant attempts to murder my children in their leisure facility. In another case, a neighbour, an elderly widow crippled with arthritis who lives in a bought council flat where she has been for 50 years, takes her life in her hands every time she climbs the stone stairs to her flat. Her son wants to put in a stair lift, but the council says he can't in case a child decides to play on it and hurt themselves.
What has changed is two things; first, that they are no longer considered to be a figure of fun by the wider population, someone to be laughed at and got round or simply ignored in favour of common sense.
Think of the character of Hodges in 'Dad's Army' - though his role should require respect, his manner and the way he delights in finding fault and sticking to 'the rules' earns him the contempt of all, even the usually happy-go-lucky Pike. It is made clear to the audience that this is one of the people who should not be allowed power over others because he is incapable of handling it. And indeed, laws made 30-40 years ago were made carefully, with an eye to redress for those subject to the depredations of the small minority that would abuse them.
However, we have moved away from the judgement of the majority that something can be safely ignored, even ridiculed, despite being the stated desire of the State, and into the realms of the state's minions being the final authority.
And the second thing that has changed is that the lazy attitude to making laws, as seen above, no longer restricts the power of the small minority of petty despots. Hence, an unelected council official takes it upon themselves to overrule a mother in a public place and she feels no choice but to obey, because otherwise, that unelected official will have the full backing of 'the authorities' to bring about some unpleasant consequences for her.
Those two 'CiF' columns are both worth reading in full (especially with comments), and particularly with regard to these stories in the media:
Self-defence 'no justification' for hitting a 15 year old pupil
Challenge the safety of a vaccine? You must be mad!
'Offend' someone of another religion by simply discussing yours? To court with you!
Want to eat lunch during Ramadan? Not while Muslim colleagues are around, you don't!
Nice society we are building, isn't it?