Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Nanny State for Nannies

Saturday's editorial in the Chronicle applauds New York for passing legislation granting nannies paid sick days and holidays. According to the paper, nannies work in near slavery:
[D]omestic workers still enjoy the fewest rights of almost any other class of workers. Though their ethnicity has changed over the decades, for the last century domestic workers have tended to be people of color: already marginalized, in other words, and with less leverage to negotiate work contracts. Throughout U.S. history, domestic workers have also tended to be women, who are still paid less on average than their male counterparts even in the professional world.

Above all, domestic employees do their jobs within families - who all too often fail to treat them as the paid workers they are. It's little wonder that these workers often endure verbal abuse, overwork and nonpayment, even sexual assault. Working in the insular world of the home, they lack the neutral witnesses and other social controls found in other work environments. 
Despite the paper's claims, nannies have the same rights as any individual. Rights pertain to action--the freedom to act according to one's own judgment. Short of literal slavery, nannies have a choice as to whether they stay in the profession, as well as for whom they work. If a nanny finds the conditions in one home unbearable, she is free to go elsewhere. (Instances of sexual abuse or nonpayment are violations of the nanny's rights and should be prosecuted.)

But this isn't good enough for the Chronicle. The fact that some individuals tolerate abuse is intolerable to the paper. The Chronicle objects to the fact that some individuals make choices that it finds objectionable, and government must prohibit the freedom to make such choices. 

While the paper stops short of calling for such legislation in Texas, it certainly would support such controls. For years the paper has not hesitated to endorse virtually any proposal that limits individual choice, imposes controls and restrictions on individuals, and expands the power of government.

That some individuals make bad decisions or tolerate situations that many of us would run away from is indisputable. But so what? It is quite easy to find fault with the choices others make, but that does not justify preventing them from making such decisions.

I am currently re-reading Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis. Babbitt is a complete conformist. He opposes Prohibition and regales in his ability to skirt the law. He tolerates restrictions on his rights because it is good for the sops who cannot control their own drinking, while he simultaneously rejoices when he can enjoy a cocktail. Because Prohibition allegedly benefits others he is willing to put aside his own judgment, desires, and interests. Such is the thinking that gives rise to the nanny state. Such is the thinking that allows individuals to slowly cede their rights.


Mo said...

notice the paternalism in this statement as well:

for the last century domestic workers have tended to be people of color: already marginalized, in other words, and with less leverage to negotiate work contracts.

so their skin colour automatically makes them marginalized and disadvantaged.

the soft bigotry of low expectations

Brian Phillips said...

The paper also had to point out that nannies are generally women.