Russell Taylor: Babies, breasts and fags are none of the government’s business

My wife is expecting our second child and, as expected, is already being lectured by the NHS, the media and various other busybodies on the importance of breastfeeding. It’s better for baby, apparently, and creates a special bond between mother and child that will be shattered by the mere sight of a rubber teat. Powdered milk, it seems, is little better than Anthrax, and is only used by selfish scumbags, who deserve to be horsewhipped and sterilised.

My wife and daughter have a terrific relationship, which seems to have survived the trauma of not being breastfed, so I don’t have much time for all that ‘special bond’ mumbo-jumbo. As for the supposed health benefits of breast-feeding, I was bottle-fed from birth, enjoyed a healthy childhood, and grew to a strapping 6-foot 3-inches, so I’m sceptical when the experts claim that weaning children on formula milk will turn them into sickly weaklings. Admittedly, my own experience doesn’t constitute empirical scientific evidence; but given that formula milk is legal and widely used, and given that we don’t have the infant mortality rate of Burkina Faso, it’s probably safe to say that it does no harm.

Irrespective of any health issues, I suspect that the tit-centric Taliban would still want to ban the bottle, because they have attached a mystical significance to the act of breastfeeding. Motherhood has become part of the Gaia myth, with women portrayed as pure creatures, who have rejected the tainted products of man and are at one with nature.

What a load of crap. If formula milk was made by hippies out of herbs picked from the grounds of their commune, those earth mothers, yummy mummies and joyless NHS commissars who insist that breast is best would be all over it. The reason they aren’t is that formula milk is an industrial product, and industry is seen as a symbol of male dominance and machismo. By rejecting it, women imagine they are liberating themselves from its clutches and declaring their support for a gentler, more feminised world. It’s like driving a Prius or boasting that you buy all your food from farmers’ markets: it shows that, unlike the mouth-breathing masses, you’re a sensitive, caring person, who has turned away from the brutishness of the modern world. Or as the writer Kay Hymowitz put it: “Hating machismo [is] evidence of the moral superiority that comes with being born female.”

My wife and I take the view that however parents want to feed their children is their business. But when your lifestyle choice is a form of snobbery, you can’t leave it at that. Your way has to be right and everyone else must be wrong, and this must be pointed out at every opportunity, lest people start getting other ideas and undermine your snooty claims to be better than them. And if you’re a left-wing crank, for whom everything is political, then something as simple as feeding your child can be turned into a blow against the capitalist tyranny.

I realise my opinions might be construed as misogynistic, but nothing could be further from the truth. I’m all for female empowerment, which is why I think it’s appalling that women should be bullied into breastfeeding. Raising a baby is hard work, so anything that makes it easier and allows mothers to concentrate on other aspects of parenthood cannot be a bad thing. If a woman doesn’t get on with breastfeeding, if it causes distress to her and her baby, then guilting her into persevering with it is plain malicious – especially when it is done to prop up your own prejudices.

Just because some people find it empowering to raise their child like cavewoman doesn’t mean that everyone else should follow suit. Being a good parent isn’t about how you put milk in your baby’s mouth; it’s about love, care and nurture. I dare say that many of the breast bullies dumped their kiddywinks on a nanny at the first opportunity. That’s their choice, but I don’t suppose they’d appreciate me taking to the airwaves to decry their inferior parenting skills, so how about they stop lecturing us on the virtues of breastfeeding?

Talking of health-related issues, I see the subject of plain packaging for cigarette packets is back in the news. When such issues rear their heads, they always seem to follow the same pattern. First, shrill campaigners call for government action, ostensibly to end the suffering of some group or other. Then journalists seize on the story as a chance to showcase their compassion and to challenge the government to join them on the moral high ground. The government, desperate to maintain its caring credentials, launches a review. Little more is heard until the campaigners resurrect the story with the help of the media, prompting the opposition to demand the government Do Something About It. Finally, a law is passed, another freedom disappears, and the bandwagon rolls on.

What almost never happens is that the government tells the campaigners and lobbyists to piss off. Ministers seem to believe there is more kudos in supporting well-meaning causes than rejecting them, whatever their nature or validity. Nowadays, virtue is just a list of things you disapprove of. Providing you claim to be concerned about the welfare of others, your cause can be added to the list and, once there, will be enshrined as a moral imperative that must be satisfied. That’s why the issue of smoking will never go away. The monomaniacs who are calling for plain cigarette packets aren’t going to pack up and go home if they get their way. They will not rest until smoking is made illegal and smokers are shipped off to internment camps.

The government says it’s waiting to see what can be learnt from the use of plain packets in Australia. But this is one of those issues in which the evidence is irrelevant – or rather, the evidence that is put forward will be completely worthless. Because smoking is on the list of things it is virtuous to oppose, and because the righteous believe anything that advances their cause is worthwhile, they will cook up or distort the evidence to suit them.

Consider the premise on which smoking in public places was banned. Realising that the scientific basis of passive smoking is dubious, and that adults are free to choose whether to enter places where smoking is permitted, the government passed the law to supposedly protect workers who are forced (at gunpoint?) to work in pubs and bars. I doubt such people even exist, but even if they do, their ‘plight’ doesn’t justify a law that affects millions of people. You might as well ban fishing in case it harms mermaids.

A consequence of the Left’s war on judgment has been to make the government our sole moral arbiter, and to turn laws into the word of God. This has flipped the traditional relationship between the law and morality on its head. Something is no longer illegal because it’s wrong; it’s wrong because it’s illegal. This means the very existence of laws can be taken as a) an irrefutable judgment on the evidence used to justify them, and b) indisputable proof that the thing being outlawed is bad.

Because we now have a ban on smoking in public places, anti-smoking campaigners feel confident in saying, “See, the experts spoke and the law was passed. This wouldn’t have happened unless the wise men and women of Parliament had had any doubts over the evidence.” Since the ban came into force, you rarely hear anyone point out that passive smoking remains an unproven theory.

As I’ve stated before, facts are only half the debate. If you argue on facts alone, then you tacitly endorse the assumptions your opponents derive from them. It’s the assumptions themselves that should be attacked if they threaten the things you legitimately hold dear. The idea that people should not be free to decide whether to smoke, whether to expose themselves to a smoky environment, or whether to allow smoking on their own private property is outrageous. And the suggestion that we are so impressionable and stupid that the graphics on a cigarette packet will persuade us to take up the habit is patronising. And yet, we all know how this is going to end. The ‘experts’, the campaigners and the people who claim to know what’s best for us will have their way. It’s always a matter of when, not if.

Oh, and before you ask, I’m a non-smoker.

12 comments on “Russell Taylor: Babies, breasts and fags are none of the government’s business

  1. grumpyoldmanuk
    November 30, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    Amen to all that.

  2. Rocco
    November 30, 2013 at 11:48 am #


  3. therealguyfaux
    November 30, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Here’s a hideous thought:

    It is known that human milk becomes progressively fattier the farther from birth the nursing continues– however, there are women who, for endocrinological reasons, do not produce “creamy-enough” milk as time wears on. This has certain effects upon the infant whose sole source of nourishment is the mother’s teat. Not necessarily a failure to thrive per se, but development is outside the “usual” range in some measurements.

    If we demand that women who CAN breast-feed MUST do so, do we then mandate that all mother’s milk be tested for fats? And if a mother’s milk should be too fatty, do we demand she dilute it, after expression into a container, before it is fed to a child from a bottle– which would seem to defeat the “mother-child” bonding part of it? And if it comes up short, how are we supposed to “supplement” the milk? Do we supplement the milk– or the mother? Will we need to continue to monitor this?

    Who’s ready to get THIS invasive? And who pays, if we do?

    • Russell Taylor
      November 30, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

      If you have imagined it as a terrible what-if scenario, it’s only a matter of time before it is taken seriously.

  4. Brian the Rhetaur
    November 30, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    “Nowadays, virtue is just a list of things you disapprove of.”

    Another beautiful article. Thank you.

  5. Brian the Rhetaur
    November 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don’t like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don’t expect freedom to survive very long.
    Thomas Sowell

    • Russell Taylor
      November 30, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

      Sowell is full of such gems and is one my heroes. Always happy to see him quoted.

  6. Lord Lunatic
    November 30, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    What on earth is the matter with you Russell? You can’t have 60 million plus people and growing exponentially, going about doing just whatever the hell they like now can you? Oh and another thing I’m only five foot nine, probably because my mother “selfish bitch” only kept up breast feeding for a fortnight.

  7. Dan Vesty
    December 1, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    I have to say that it is a remarkable testament to the classiness and intellectual superiority of readers that so far not even one person has attempted a breast-based pun in reply to this article….

  8. Baul Bracre
    December 1, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    Your logic seems to be that because the NHS is a large public sector institution, it is therefore inexorably bound up with leftist ideology, which in turn drives all of its decision-making, right down to its advice on breastfeeding. Because you disagree with the standard advice, which is in fact standard all over the developed world and endorsed by the WHO, you conclude that it must be driven by some weird combination of deluded hippie sentimentality and judgmental, left-wing bullying. This is exactly the kind of victim mentality that a lot of people on this blog would decry in others.

    I was also bottle-fed and grew into a healthy adult without any significant problems (apart from a couple of bad allergies). That doesn’t mean I should ignore all the evidence linking better health outcomes to breastfeeding, especially when supported by independent systematic reviews such as those done by the Cochrane Collaboration.

    What would you prefer? That the NHS ignore the best available medical evidence so as to avoid appearing judgmental? If they did exactly that to avoid causing offence to a minority group, wouldn’t you consider that the worst kind of pandering? I know I would. In any case, the NHS has a significant section on their website on bottlefeeding:

    Please tell me what about this strikes you as bullying or judgmental. Incidentally, I’m at the age where I know plenty of new mothers, and about half have breastfed, the other half have used formula. A lot of them started off trying to breastfeed then switched to the bottle after encountering feeding problems. None of them have ever raised a complaint about bullying from the NHS when they made the switch. Nobody made reference to the Taliban. All this suggests that you’re either overly sensitive or just trying to generate copy with a baseless strawman argument.

  9. silverminer
    December 1, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    Babies, breast feeding and smoking are, unfortunately, the Government’s business because they’ve socialised health care. You’d get the same advice from a private midwife or doctor but I dare say that would offend you less, Russell 😀 !

    At least they’re being scientifically correct in these two instances which is more than I could say for a range of other health issues where following Government advice is the opposite of what you should do to optimise your health.

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