Addressing the American people for the final time as President, Dwight Eisenhower warned that:
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.
This may seem a long way from Andy Burnham’s suggestion that the government should regulate breakfast cereals and, of course, in one sense it is. Yet one of the features of our society is the steady accumulation of influence – and increasingly of power too – of what might be termed the Government-Health-Security Complex*.
Sometimes slippery slopes really do exist. Some folk warned that the public health industry – that is, the Government-Health-Security Complex – would never be satisfied with its battles against tobacco and alcohol and that it would, in time, launch fresh offensives against fast food, soft drinks, and all things salty an sweet. Don’t be silly, we were told. That’s different. Well, who looks stupid now?
Like so much else this is also, in the end, a question of power and class. The NHS – treated as some kind of secular religion – is to be used as a means of shaming the population (especially the bestial lower orders) into behaving in a more comely, acceptable fashion. The class prejudice inherent in all this is rarely far from the surface.