Monday, October 10, 2005

Cry freedom…

The Daily Telegraph today offers a leader entitled "Farewell to freedom", which tells us to "cast your eye over some of the stories in today's newspaper."

Cars are to be installed with chips making it easier to incriminate their drivers. Fluoridisation is to be extended to most of England. Smoking may be banned from pubs and restaurants. Work is going ahead on an identity card scheme in anticipation of parliamentary ratification. A law lord says the Government's anti-terrorist laws are exorbitant and unnecessary. Employers will be forced to grant paternity leave to their staff. A Bill outlawing religious hatred is about to go before the Lords.
Says the paper:

None of these proposals, on its own, is a mortal threat to the liberty of the subject. A case can be made, in isolation, for each of them. But, taken together, they indicate a substantial shift in power from citizen to state. And this is just one day's news. Think of some of the things that happen not to be in today's paper: the Home Secretary's attempts to get the EU to increase police powers, so as not to have to justify the measure before his own Parliament; the impending Terrorism Bill; the increase in state spending; the weakening of property rights.
It adds: "It's a free country," we like to say. But freedom is not simply a feel-good word. It has a specific meaning. What is more, there are degrees of freedom. Every time we increase the Government's powers, albeit for understandable and contingent reasons, we become less free as a country.

Interestingly enough, one of the issues it raises is its own story on the fitting of cars with mandatory satellite positioning receivers and automatic, linked mobile phone, which can tell the authorities where you are – all in the same of safety, of course.

This is an EU initiative, called e-call, which we actually covered on 15 September - never let it be said that we are behind the times.

However, of all the insults to freedom listed by the Telegraph, this is the only one which is directly linked to the EU. The rest are home-grown, which begs the question as to which institution is the greater threat to our liberties – our domestic government or our government over the water in Brussels.

In fact, it seems to us that they are two sides of the same coin. One of the reasons, we believe, for the rampant Europhilia of New Labour is that it shares the same mindset of the "colleagues" – statist, big government orientated and interventionist. Either and both are a danger to us and the net effect of their activities is the same.

Which brings to mind the oft quoted aphorism of our own "colleague" on this blog, Helen Szamuely. Born and brought up in the Soviet system, she reminds us that governments are never our friends. The fatal weakness of the British, she says, is that, after being tolerably well-governed for a period, we have forgotten that universal truth that all governments are in fact the enemy of the people. We should tolerate them only because the alternative – no government at all – is even worse.


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