Here in New York we have a very busy government. It’s worried about the kinds of fats we eat and the size of the soft drinks we buy, and there is no shortage of regulations affecting businesses, street vendors, and individuals. But in all this exciting fine tuning, nobody seems to have bothered to think about the much greater task of keeping floodwaters out of the subway system. Admittedly, getting public support and finding the money for flood protection would be hard, but it is exactly that kind of hard job that governments are supposed to do. Leadership is getting the important things done, not looking busy on secondary tasks while the real needs of the city go quietly unmet.

The problem with nanny state governance isn’t just that it’s intrusive. It isn’t just that it stifles business with over-regulation, and it isn’t just that it empowers busybodies and costs money. It’s that it distracts government from the really big jobs that it ought to be doing.