He’s a wise head on young shoulders, Ben Spence, as his piece in today Independent demonstrates. As well as touching on two of Popla’s bugbears – the National Health Service’s obsession with smoking and its pathologically wasteful prescription-writing – he has highlighted an appalling scandal: namely that, in a system which claims its policies are based on evidence, £5 million of our annual taxes go to provably ineffective homeopathy.

As Spence points out, that cash could train 20 British surgeons a year. (Halving the UK’s annual contributions to the World Health Organisation could train another 200.) But more importantly, the fact it can even be spent like this reveals how the ‘wellness’ clique running our health establishment has become unaccountable, irresponsible and out-of-control.

To Spence, the solution is root-and-branch reform of our health service; he appears to favour a German-style model in a previous article. At Popla, we’d go a step further. As Clare Foges says in today’s Times, ‘Decades of government mission-creep have resulted in the expectation that Whitehall can fix almost anything. When the cry goes up that the state needs to step in…it would be refreshing if sometimes the prime minister would respond not with the promise of a review or tsar or consultation but a curt “Hang on, there are limits to what the state can and should do”.’

So can we accept that the nanny state should stop exhorting us to change our lifestyles to match their expectations? And stop backing charities and think-tanks that do the same? Institutions can present their own research and inform the media without the intervention of overpaid publicists and publicly-funded pressure groups. And dispassionate analysis would show – for example – that nicotine puts more into the Exchequer than it take out, while impeding mental illness.

To go on a tangent, we’ve always found it amusing that alcohol reduces blood-sugar levels, which is crucial to combating Type 2 diabetes. But actually, in a way, that’s our point. Nanny doesn’t know best. She has a few neurotic obsessions – don’t drink or take drugs, don’t smoke, don’t eat sugar or fat – which are irksome, contradictory and have unforeseen consequences.

We are her employers, not her charges. We should save ourselves a packet, hire some more sawbones, and give her the sack.

by Winston Smith