Here at Bogpaper Towers in London we are always impressed with the libertarian and Austrian views of City A.M’s editor Allister Heath. In yesterday’s column he argues that it is about time ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ became a part of UK political debate. He believes that the longer the government and authorities continue to make decisions for us, or ‘approve’ our own decisions the more we shall behave like children.
You can read the original column here.
LIBERTY. Freedom. When did you last hear these two words in the UK political debate? Well, I certainly can’t remember. Our country is dominated by busybodies and collectivists who believe that they and the state have the right and duty to tell us all what to do, to spend our money for us and to control what we can eat, drink, trade or say. It’s all gone too far. Individual freedom and its twin sister personal responsibility are the cornerstones of successful Western, liberal capitalist societies; yet these are being relentlessly undermined. Ultimately, there is no difference between economic and social freedoms. Attacking one endangers the other.
So this is my plea: let’s put the emphasis back on the individual. Let’s stop trying to ban everything. Let’s stop describing a tax cut as a “cost” to the government or – even worse – as morally identical to public spending. Let’s stop assuming adults should no longer have the right to eat fast food, or smoke, or drink, or paint their walls bright green, or build a conservatory in their back garden, or whatever it is they wish to do with their own bodies and with their own private property. Let’s once again speak up for the rights of consenting adults to choose how to live their own lives, even if we disapprove. Let’s allow people to hold, discuss or display their beliefs freely, especially if we disagree.
Let’s recall what Robert Nozick, the great twentieth century libertarian philosopher once said: “Individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group may do to them without violating their rights.” Nozick wasn’t just talking about the big human rights everybody still pays lip service to – he was also arguing against all the other, supposedly low-level, reductions in individual freedom. We have turned our backs on the ideas that made the West great and prosperous.
The problem is that if one treats adults like children they eventually behave as such. The result is a culture of irresponsibility, of entitlement and of buck-passing. Freedom is tough. It’s not easy to take responsibility for one’s actions. It’s easier to hide behind the nanny state and to demand protection from oneself. It’s simpler to live in a stagnant, boring, ultra-regulated society than in a dynamic, creative and slightly risky world. But it’s high time we tried freedom again. It’s more fun, it’s more exciting, it’s more entrepreneurial – and ultimately, believe it or not, it actually works pretty well.