Recently I made my first sojourn to Europe. This surprised many people given that clearly my family hails from there (on both sides). Aside the history and scenery, it is interesting to see different countries approaches to universal issues. Europe has the reputation for being overly bureaucratic with too many laws, but when it comes to personal liberty, they seem far ahead of Australia.
In fact, if one listens to big public health and the nanny statists here it is a wonder that anyone would emerge alive from a trip to Europe. That people live there are not all dead would be seen as some sort of miracle.
Here are just a few examples.
At Munich train station one is struck by the number of pushbikes that are parked nearby. It would be hundreds. Clearly, far more people use push bikes to get around. Maybe it is the relatively flat terrain, the cycle paths or the traffic. And maybe lots of people ride around because they are not forced by law to wear a helmet. We know that cycle rates plunged in Australia when compulsory helmets were introduced.
Some in Munich wear them, other do not. There are no figures to show that injuries are any worse in Germany. Let me be clear. If you are riding fast on a road with cars then wearing a helmet is a good idea. If trundling along a cycle path…?
This is not to say that people should not wear helmets. The substantive point is that people are trusted to make their own decisions based on their own situation. What is notable is that far more people ride bicycles. There is no evidence that the rates of death or injury is higher than in Australia.
In Germany, the legal drinking age is 16 and it is part of life rather than separate to other activities. People meet for a beer like we might meet for a coffee, not to get drunk (although this may happen at times) but to get together and chat. Given the hysteria about brain damage from alcohol till the day you turn 18 in Australia, it is a minor miracle that Germany developed superior technologies given they can drink before 18.
In Italy one can buy a glass of wine to have with deli items at lunch or to go with a pastry or gelato. Street vendors in markets sell pesto, biscuits and Limoncello (plus a number of variants like meloncello). Yet despite the “harms of alcohol” there are no massive numbers of drunks in the street nor countless dead bodies.
It almost goes without saying that in grocery stores you can buy alcoholic drinks in the next aisle to the salami and cheese. New Zealand also allows this and somehow, they too survive.
In Croatia we were fortunate to be in the town square when Croatia beat Russia in the world cup soccer quarter final. People were able to watch and enjoy a beer or other beverage. Police presence was minimal and there was no trouble. Flares were let off on celebration at the end. In Australia the police would have had a field day raising revenue for the nanny state.
Another notable difference is seeing people vaping in the streets together with promotion of non-combustible nicotine products. Rates of smoking in countries where vaping is legal are falling far faster than Australia.
Make no mistake – Europe does not get all policies right. Italy, for example is seeking to implement the border security policies used in Australia. France is seeking to reduce the barriers it has erected to employment through stifling IR laws.
In the hotel industry they use horizontal integration. A good idea demonstrated to work in one hotel, is replicated across a chain.
In Australia we excel in many areas and the world can learn from us. Equally there is much we can learn from others. We need to wind back the nanny state and return decisions about their own lives into the hands of the individuals living those lives.
Dr Joe Kosterich is a Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, who wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications and is also a regular on radio and television. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases and is an advisor to Reed Medical Conferences.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma and sits on the board of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association.