Monday, 25 May 2009

Review: What Price Liberty?

How freedom was won and is being lost
by Ben Wilson


It is 150 years since the publication of JS Mills' On Liberty - yet another in this year's astonishing procession of anniversaries - and the subject, if not the reality, of political liberty is more prominent now than it has been for ages. This is partly because, after years in which the government could count on only token opposition, the defenders of liberty have at last woken from their slumbers. But it may also underlie, at some deep level, the current crisis in confidence with the political process. Our politicians are hated, not because they are especially venal, but because they have not defended traditional freedoms. Many people may be unaware of what these traditional freedoms were, they may consciously have desired more laws, but they find themselves today more hemmed in by official restrictions - all eminently "proportionate", of course - than at any time in living memory; no wonder they find themselves lashing out.

In this somewhat febrile climate, it's good to find a book that takes the long view. Ben Wilson's new book What Price Liberty? wonders how it was that we "lost the habit of talking about liberty". In an effort to find out, Wilson examines the movements, debates, events and personalities that have shaped the uniquely British (or is it merely English?) view of personal and political freedom. At every stage, he finds, freedom was contested, denied, campaigned for; it had to be wrested, sometimes violently, from an unwilling establishment. Yet the direction was clear. It is the story of a society that more than any other (with the exception of the Americans) made the sense of themselves as a free people the core of their national identity; and then, over a period of a few short years, stood by and watched impassively, even enthusiastically, as a government that saw itself as modern and progressive took much of it away.

The recent decline in liberty and liberty-consciousness - most of it, anyway - has happened when Labour was in power. It's tempting, then, to blame the present government. And not unfair, given the openly contemptuous language used by politicians such as Tony Blair, David Blunkett, Jacqui Smith and (to a lesser extent) Gordon Brown for traditional principles of legality and freedom and the checks and balances of our unwritten constitution. But it's not just their fault. As Wilson himself notes, part of the problem may lie in inadequate teaching of history. In an age transfixed by whizz-bang technology traditional brakes on state power can all too easily be seen as obstacles in the way of progress, archaic forms to be circumvented if not abolished entirely, rather than as a priceless legacy to be cherished and handed on.

English liberty is contained in no grand Declaration of Independence or Charter of Fundamental Rights (Magna Carta itself being largely a dust-dry list of tax reforms). It is more of a habit - or a habitat, an ecosystem that has grown organically and unplanned. This has been its greatest strength, but it has also left it vulnerable. It lacks the safeguard of entrenched constitutional rights. Politicians concerned with short-term advantage, ministers and bureaucrats concerned with efficiency and technical solutions, newspapers and members of the public demanding that "something be done", have all been liberty's pallbearers.

"Society" writes Wilson, "very frequently needs to be saved from a headlong rush towards things it may later regret - the history of liberty is, without a doubt, the constructions of restraints which are counterintuitive and very often go against the instincts of human nature". Such restraints in Britain have been rarely been set down in law: rather, politicians, civil servants and the police have (usually) known where to draw the line - and the public, too, has known instinctively when the bounds have been overstepped. But the price of liberty, as someone once said (Jefferson? Paine?) is eternal vigilance. And as Wilson comments, "without a questing mind and an appetite for exploration the passion for freedom dies away".

Of course, there are still many people in this country who feel an intense cultural attachment to traditional concepts of freedom - otherwise Wilson's book would have no market, and I wouldn't be writing this blog. And perhaps the pendulum has begun to swing away from the authoritarians. As I noted at the beginning, the "crisis of liberty" is a big theme at the moment. Yet polls continue to show strong support for crackdowns and security measures of one sort or another. Notice how many times Jacqui Smith uses the word "safe". Or consider the ambiguity of the word "security", which evokes both a comfortable image of being at home with a loved one in front of a roaring fire, and a heavy in a uniform, perhaps holding a gun, demanding to see your ID.

Wilson rightly, in my view, stresses the importance of the autonomous, responsible individual as the centre of any true understanding of liberty. In an important chapter, he notes how freedom is inseperable from risk, and that therefore attempts to improve safety - of individuals as of society as a whole - will inevitably endanger freedom. The free individual is, from the point of view of the state, a dangerous individual. He or she might act in an unpredicable way, might abuse their freedom, might harm themselves or others. Better to be safe than sorry (actually, no, it isn't; it's usually better to be sorry). Obviously, there is a balance to be struck. Absolute freedom must be constrained by something. What has been most dangerous, I think, is the increasing centrality of the state as the mechanism of constraint. Previously there were such things as family and community authority, religion, deference, local associations and the rest of Burke's "little platoons". They too could be oppressive, often deeply so, but they at least gave people a sense of their relationship with others as members of society not defined by an all-seeing state.

Many of the problems Wilson identifies will be familiar: the over-eager recourse to legislation, the specific difficulties thrown up by multiculturalism (he discusses the "embarrassingly equivocal response" of liberals to the Danish cartoons), the stoking-up of fears of terrorism and crime (not always the fault of the government), the growth of databases and, yes, health-and-safety. Such "enemies of freedom" are both disparate and of a piece. What they have in common is, at base, a narrowing of scope.

My own understanding of freedom is predominantly spatial: it as, psychologically speaking, having enough room to breathe. Unfreedom is a pressing in from the outside on personal space. Today, people in Britain (and, I daresay, in some other places too) feel the envelopment of the state around ever more aspects of their lives. Things that until a few years ago could be done informally and ad hoc - everything from arranging a gig in a local pub to rewiring your front room - must now be cleared with some bureaucratic agency. Forms must be filled in. Fees must be paid. Paradoxically, even the government has lost much of its former liberty, as a human-rights culture imposes expensive and often counterproductive procedures on central and local government, even on the armed forces, in order to comply with health-and-safety directives, equality laws and the like. Even as it controls us, it finds itself tied down like Gulliver at the hands of the Lilliputians. The result is a type of despotism unprecedented in history: a tyranny without a tyrant.

Reading this book will help you understand how we got into our present mess. It's also valuable as an incisive, intelligently-written historical survey. But it comes with a health warning. "The liberal phase in our history seems to be coming to an end" writes Wilson towards the end. It's almost enough to make you want to kill yourself.

What Price Liberty, by Ben Wilson, is published by Faber and Faber (RRP £14.99)

30 comments:

woman on a raft said...

Thanks for the tag solution. That has been driving me potty and making me look like a half-wit for the past week.
Sorry, forgotten what I was going to say now. But thanks again.

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

As it happens I know someone whose daughter as killed by dodgy electrical wiring in her kitchen, not that it matters whether I know a victim or not, there are victims unknown to either you or me who should be important as they prove the risk is genuine. The legislation in this regard is justified, proportionate, humane and by no means an intrusion on our liberty.

If you can accept the legislation on distilleries - J S Mill had no issues so far as I know - or those on drugs, produce and so forth then why electrical safety?

To me this reads like nothing more than shallow party political posturing. It was wrong when Labour did it in the 90s and it is just as wrong now.

Maybe you are content to be no better than Alastair Campbell. By contrast I have much higher goals in life.

The Heresiarch said...

Well, Woolly, I didn't expect you to agree with me. What does "the risk is genuine" mean, however? There's a risk of drowning in the bath - many hundreds of people die every year of drowning in the bath. So let's ban baths, shall we? Why not. IT WOULD SAVE LIVES.

Martin said...

In the past, I had long accepted that the Tory party were ambivalent about liberty and liberal values. Many espouse a combination of social authoritarianism with market liberalism.

I always had the vague notion that Labour would be basically fairly liberal, so much so that a favourite criticism of the Liberal Party was that no one could tell what they stand for. In other words liberalism and liberal values were not seen as sufficiently distinctive.

New Labour has changed all of this: in effect it is Labour who have swung the pendulum. In effect, save the under represented Lib Dems and isolated voices amongst the Conservatives and a few others, opposition has been stifled.

No doubt in opposition Labour will attempt to rewrite history and rediscover a liberal tendency, but they will find it hard to convince.

Woolly assumes that legislation on house wiring will have an impact on the incidence of serious electrical accidents. I am very sceptical, too often legislation seems to result from a need to appear to do something, irrespective of whether it really addresses the issue.

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

Building regulations and so on have had a big impact on the safety of people's homes. Doubtless you regard it as an impertinence that the state insists on your drinking water being potable, on your not catching cholera because it disposes of sewage safely, not being subject to lead poisoning because it insists only safe substances are used in paintwork and plumbing, not dying of carbon monoxide poisoning because it only allows trained technicians to install gas fires and boilers?

If you want to electrocute yourself then please be my guest. But as anyone who has read J S Mill should know, provided they can understand simply English they should, your liberty ends when it impacts upon other people's health.

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

Heresiarch wonders why the state would not ban baths since there is a remote possibility of being drowned in one? Well for a start there is the clue, remote possibility. Dodgy wiring regularly causes fires as well as electrocutions. About 8000 a year according to the gov statistics which sounds plausible.

So, for the same reason that the state does not require the wearing of safety helmets to protect us from meteorites or lightning conductors to protect us from lightning there are many things that are too trivial to be worth getting involved with.

I'll see if I can find how many people are directly injured or killed by dodgy wiring in the UK we can add to the 8000 fires / year.

The Heresiarch said...

Woolly: Perhaps you could also find out how many lives have actually been saved since these regulations came in. Comparison: around 40 lives a year would be saved by banning baths. Would you also justify the expensive licensing regime that has all but killed off live music in pubs? That saves no lives whatever - but it does raise money for the state through the selling of overpriced licenses.

But that's just two examples. The point is that every restriction of this type, however justifiable it seems on its own, contributes to reducing the overall sphere of life that isn't supervised by the state. And, cumulatively, this makes for a blander, more conformist society. So every time a new regulation is brought in, the onus should be on the government to justify it. Instead, there's hardly ever a debate. Things are simply introduced, as secondary legislation.

asquith said...

I agree with sensible regulations to secure standards in food, drink & such like. I would also like to see laws on fair trading enforced so that businesses can no longer throw around meaningless terms in an attempt to convince people they're something you're not.

I would, for example, advocate that someone who sold produce calling itself "free range" when it didn't meet the legal specifications of such should be prosecuted for fraud.

I don't think anyone would disagree with the principle, but the point is that the proliferation of "health & safety" legislation has tended not to make us healthier, or safer, & I severely doubt whether it was even intended to in the first place.

You need only ask someone in the pub trade, to take one that's got an especially hard kicking, to verify this.

Likewise- has "security" really been enhanced by the policies of Smith & her predecessors? I do not think so- in fact, many of those who support a much harsher law 'n' order stance support civil liberties because they believe in punishing the guilty rather than the innocent.

You have also to look at the labyrinthine means-tested benefits to see that this sort of business often does not have the desire effect.

Re: the Conservatives. I am not sure what to make of them on civil liberties. The past 12 years have become an eye opener for some. Hopefully they will keep their mistrust of authoritarianism even if they're the ones wielding the levers of power. But I am holding my fire over Cameron in general. I refuse to speculate on what he will do, as he may find himself overtaken by events & hard pressed by various factions.

For the man himself I have quite a high regard. But I make no judgment on what future governments will be like.

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

asquith said... "I don't think anyone would disagree with the principle, but the point is that the proliferation of "health & safety" legislation has tended not to make us healthier, or safer, & I severely doubt whether it was even intended to in the first place."

Oh dear, I think I'm going to have to create Woolly's Law : "All online blogs descend into conspiracy theory." a bit like Godwin's Law. The first person to propose a conspiracy is hereby decreed to have 'lost' the discussion under Woolly's Law and will get nothing but mockery in return.

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

Well Heresiarch, perhaps you should check to see if some rule or regulation has actually achieved anything or was likely to before condemning it? You've declared that the government is guilty until proven innocent which is a reversal of the principles of justice that is held dear by liberals. Obviously you are no liberal as you make abundantly clear but I have high hopes of converting you to liberalism.

Banning baths would obviously be disproportionate, it might save a few toddlers a year from being drowned but that is a very high price to pay for denying millions of adults and children the pleasure of a long bath. There is probably some minor health benefit to keeping clean and taking baths that will balance out the tiny number of deaths anyway.

I'm not aware of any health benefits of house fires caused by bad wiring or electrocution nor do they seem very plausibe.

Bob's Head Revisited said...

I see the government is to reduce the speed limit on roads that are already 30mph to 20 mph. This is, of course, very sensible. In fact, I seem to remember the government telling us how many lives it will save - I think it was 8527. Marvellous. But why stop there?

If reducing the limit from 30mph to 20 mph can save more lives, then surely reducing it to 10mph will save even more! Why not make it zero and let's eradicate road deaths altogether! Hooray!

But wait. What about motorbikes? And bicycles? Think about it: there's a whole load of hard, sharp, pointy things out there tearing about at great speed, maiming and killing as they go. It's horrid. Let's reduce the speed limit to ZERO for ALL vehicles. No more road deaths. Hooray!

I saw a man the other day, running. That's right, running, really fast along the road. What if he'd collided with a little baby child? A little rosy-cheeked, soft-haired innocent baby child? It could happen. It does happen. Did you know that six children have been killed, literally flattened, in the past twenty-five years, by these maniacs barging about, smoking and talking on the their mobiles, probably? It's horrific and it must stop.

I say ban running, and reduce deaths still further. Even better ban walking, with a view to banning movement altogether in a five year plan to eradicate all deaths. No more deaths. Hooray!

And anyone who doesn't want that is evil.

Standing still. Gentlemen, this is progress!

valdemar squelch said...

A friend of mine works in Health and Safety - he is a gamekeeper turned poacher, expert on all the regs, but working for a private firm. The job is simple - advise employers (not just evil capitalists, but also charities and working men's clubs) on how they could be done by the HSE or council.

My friend compiles a detailed report on things like asbestos, fire exits, paint fumes etc. He gives said report to client. Client pays thousands to my friend's bosses.

Client then (usually) puts report in drawer and forgets about it, perhaps under the illusion that he has somehow ticked a box marked 'immune to the law of the land'.

My friend says the safety elves rarely catch the truly bad employers unless and until Something Bad Happens.

A few times a year on my pal's patch (up North, basically) there is an accident, usually non-fatal. The employer who ignored the report is never jailed, and seldom pays a very hefty fine. Sometimes he gets off cleanly.

Yes, the safety elves are a pain. But are they really as pernicious to liberty as the heavy legal artillery that can stop me saying (or blogging) that A's factory/flats/kindergartens are death traps, when I have good reason to believe they are? Shouldn't we be prioritising freedom of speech, rather than freedom to skimp on fusewire and fire extinguishers?

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

Bob's Head Revisited said...

I see the government is to reduce the speed limit on roads that are already 30mph to 20 mph. This is, of course, very sensible. In fact, I seem to remember the government telling us how many lives it will save - I think it was 8527. Marvellous. But why stop there?

If reducing the limit from 30mph to 20 mph can save more lives, then surely reducing it to 10mph will save even more! Why not make it zero and let's eradicate road deaths altogether! Hooray!
Because it won't. Your whole argument is clearly nonsense from top to bottom and you are not nearly as clever as you seem to think you are. This sort of facile rubbish will earn you plaudits and many recommendations on CIF - why not post there where ignorance is valued and stupidity praised?

The Heresiarch said...

Woolly, I'd greatly appreciate it if you stopped calling everyone else "stupid".

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

I'm sorry, you're right its really not a great contribution to the debate is it and on reflection I'm sure most of your readership are quite capable of judging for themselves so hardly need me to tell them what to think. Perhaps I should just use the euphemism "I think that post is better suited to CIF" in future.

valdemar squelch said...

Reducing the speed limit is pretty stupid when it's bad driving (and, yes, some pedestrian foolishness) that causes accidents.

If I were Lord Protector (I've already got the warts and the helmet!) I would reduce road deaths by:

1. Introducing regular compulsory eye tests for drivers, and making them annual for the over 60s. A lot of drivers seem to have worse eyesight than me, Colonel Blink the Short-Sighted Gink and a lifelong non-driver.

2. Punishing drivers in proportion to how bloody stupid and callous they are when they actually cause death or injury i.e. treat killing/maiming people as violent crime.

At the moment we have the lunatic 'crackdown' approach with cameras etc that causes congestion and ill-feeling at the police and the law in general, yet drivers who seem clearly to blame for killing other citizens escape long jail terms.

Bob's Head Revisited said...

Woolly,
I was actually joking, but seeing as you've decided to get all pompously bent out of shape…

How many road deaths do you think would happen if the speed limit were reduced to zero for all vehicles? Apart from people running full-tilt into parked cars in some sort of bizarre suicide bid, would it not be - zero?
Do you think that the government should keep on reducing the speed limit in villages, for instance, until no more pedestrians are killed or injured, ever again? Would it be a case of, "well, if that's what it takes?"

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

valdemar squelch said...
1. Introducing regular compulsory eye tests for drivers, and making them annual for the over 60s. A lot of drivers seem to have worse eyesight than me, Colonel Blink the Short-Sighted Gink and a lifelong non-driver.

2. Punishing drivers in proportion to how bloody stupid and callous they are when they actually cause death or injury i.e. treat killing/maiming people as violent crime.


Hmmm. I was told, by my optician whose job it is to know these things, that reduced field of vision is more serious than myopia. People are often blissfully unaware that they have tunnel vision while being short-sighted is hard to miss. I'd prioritise regular re-testing of drivers since we all get lazy and pick up bad habits over time.

Being stupid is generally regarded as punishment enough and I don't think the law punishes stupidity per se for other offences. As we now stupidity is behind most convicted criminals but I don't think it should be regarded as an aggravating factor.

Driving dangerously, for example under the influence of alcohol even if below the legal limit is an aggravating factor.

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

Blogger Bob's Head Revisited said...

How many road deaths do you think would happen if the speed limit were reduced to zero for all vehicles? Apart from people running full-tilt into parked cars in some sort of bizarre suicide bid, would it not be - zero?.

I suggest you ask that on CIF.


Do you think that the government should keep on reducing the speed limit in villages, for instance, until no more pedestrians are killed or injured, ever again?.

No.


Would it be a case of, "well, if that's what it takes?".

No. You would be picked for a "Post of the Day" on CIF with that.

Dekka Draper said...

I bet you wish you were back on CiF, don't you Woolly?

It's easy to make yourself seem clever when you're amongst the clowns that comment there, not so easy here.

You're out of your depth Woolly. Your blustering won't save you on a serious blog.

WeepingCross said...

"My own understanding of freedom is predominantly spatial: it as, psychologically speaking, having enough room to breathe"

That's interesting. I don't think I really feel anything about 'freedom' any more as a moral category, or something I value in the abstract. The ability to do such-and-such, and the feeling that it's wrong for certain human organisations to attempt to do this-or-that, perhaps; but the word itself carries little more than an historical frisson. Years ago I stumbled across the Levellers' Day procession in Burford: marching chaps in Civil War gear carrying vast black anarchist flags quartered with the Cross of St George, and sporadically shouting 'England's Freedom!' Wonderful stuff, but when I examine the concept it seems to collapse.

I like Rhys Hopkin Morris's justification for liberalism: 'There is no man alive sufficiently good to rule the life of the man next door to him'. Now that can still stir me a bit.

WeepingCross said...

"It's easy to make yourself seem clever when you're amongst the clowns that comment there, not so easy here"

I think he is genuinely quite clever, but for some reason wants us not to think so: humility, perhaps. Was this what CIF was like?

Martin said...

Woolly, why don't you explain your views on where the balance on issues of liberty and liberalism should be drawn. What should be the limits to a 'surveillance society'? Should there be a right to be unorthodox?

Personally I feel that there has been a centralising and authoritarian drift that has continued since the mid eighties. Legislation has been introduced without sufficient regard to protecting collective freedoms and the role of the state as a servant rather than a master. Unquantifiable fear has been used as a catch-all excuse.

Anonymous said...

This discussion is largely a waste of space (woolly minded about sums it up!) and a big disappointment for this blog. Yes, H&S etc etc might get overdone etc etc, but has anyone got anything to say about much more important issues, e.g., freedom of speech and the dire kowtowing to Islam.

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

Dekka Draper said...
I bet you wish you were back on CiF, don't you Woolly?.

I don't deny there are times when I miss it, but 99% of the time I really don't.

It's easy to make yourself seem clever when you're amongst the clowns that comment there, not so easy here..

That is certainly what I hope. The only good thing about CiF were the few really bright people like the chap with the pirate haircut whose posts I could barely follow at times. ChooChoo was his name.


You're out of your depth Woolly. Your blustering won't save you on a serious blog..

Well I hope you are right about that. Its much more fun to learn something new or be made to really work at an argument. Well, it is for me anyway - others seem to enjoy easy victories. I guess that's why I am a Tractor Boy rather than a Manchester United supporter, fine talented team and proud club that they are.

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

Martin said...
Woolly, why don't you explain your views on where the balance on issues of liberty and liberalism should be drawn. What should be the limits to a 'surveillance society'? Should there be a right to be unorthodox?.

Straight into the hard questions then. I really don't think there is a formula, a dogma or a philosophy that quite does it for everything. Pretty much each case needs to be looked on its merit and reviewed regularly. What was OK in J S Mill's day isn't so now and probably visa-versa.

A right to be unorthodox? Well, not in your driving or your electrical wiring I'm afraid. But in other things such as what beer you drink or not, going Morris Dancing, fishing, skiing, collecting comics, your bedroom arrangements, what drugs you take recreationally, what sport you play or don't and so much else then yes. And it seems to me that we do already, imperfectly so but better now than at any time before. Still plenty of scope for improvement of course.

Martin said...

Woolly, I understand your pragmatism, but some guiding principle as to how and where you would draw the line would be of interest.

How would you respond, for example, if the government argued that it should have unfettered access to all individual bank accounts or email history on the grounds that it would be invaluable in the fight against terrorism?

On unorthodoxy, many bloggers hide behind a cloak of anonymity. How would you respond to a proposal that all monikers should provide access for identity? (Lots of lawyers would love this!)

I accept that you are a Liberal Democrat, probably more of the SDP persuasion, but I am unclear of the source of your liberalism, particularly your attitude to the role of the state.

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

Martin said... Woolly, I understand your pragmatism, but some guiding principle as to how and where you would draw the line would be of interest..

The John Stuart Mill / Harriet Taylor principles from On Liberty are a good starting place but even they have defects. Back in the days of Mill & Taylor science was a very approximate and authority based field very much in its infancy. It was not possible to be nearly so certain what was proven or disproven as it is today. Although very good on other issues such as being the first feminists, Mill & Taylor had nothing to say on animal rights.

Martin said... How would you respond, for example, if the government argued that it should have unfettered access to all individual bank accounts or email history on the grounds that it would be invaluable in the fight against terrorism?.

Firstly that it is making a false claim, secondly that it seems a disproportionate and unjustified intrusion. There is an argument for the state having access to personal information like that when investigating crime but of course they would be talking about intelligence and prevention rather than detective work.

So while I have never seen any reason to be concerned about ID cards, the NIR or the DNA intelligence database there is plenty to be concerned about elsewhere. The most worrying to me is that the UK has copied the Chinese Government's tactics in hiding parts of the internet of which it does not approve from its citizens. So far as I know its been parts I don't approve of or would want to visit, but that doesn't make it right. Retention of traffic details might be OK so long as its only ever read for good reasons and under a rigorously controlled and defined purpose. Retention so that it can be browsed through at leisure on fishing expeditions to embarass dissenters or political oppponents would be very bad.


Martin said... On unorthodoxy, many bloggers hide behind a cloak of anonymity. How would you respond to a proposal that all monikers should provide access for identity? (Lots of lawyers would love this!).

All bloggers use a 'moniker' or username. That username may or may not appear to be a real name but I could post as Hugh Smith rather than WML and you'd never know the former was not really my name. Philosophically speaking I could ask what is a name anyway? I'm very attached to WML and some people who know me even call me Woolly in preference to my 'real' name even though they know it perfectly well. Google, like the guardian, register an email address and that could be traced I expect should any libel lawyers be interested or someone make credible threats of violence.

Maybe people should be able to post totally anonymously if they want to but I am unlikely to be bothered to engage with them as there is no tag to identify them or history of their previous posts to illustrate their general thinking.

Martin said... I accept that you are a Liberal Democrat, probably more of the SDP persuasion, but I am unclear of the source of your liberalism, particularly your attitude to the role of the state..

I was a Liberal long before the merger with the SDP. I'm of the Orange Book persuasion so very pleased to see the likes of Ed Davey, Vince Cable & Nick Clegg in the ascendency.

Martin said...

Thank you for your response Woolly. I was interested to see you mention "fishing expedition" as this is one of the concerns I have with the kind of ID electronic cards that are proposed and with the idea of a complete DNA data bank

Both create possibilities for abuse and also increase the power of the state over the individual.

Your internet persona is of someone who likes to tell it as it is, the trouble is that when people speak up, however right and clear thinking they are, some will find themselves blacklisted, because the truth can be uncomfortable. Although people who are prepared to speak up, they may be innocent, but they do have something to fear as opportunities for surveillance increases.

What price is the liberty to keep your head down, not to make waves and to assent to the mainstream?

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

Martin said...Thank you for your response Woolly. I was interested to see you mention "fishing expedition" as this is one of the concerns I have with the kind of ID electronic cards that are proposed and with the idea of a complete DNA data bank.

I don't know what you mean by 'complete DNA data bank' as I've never heard anyone propose one. The Police DNA database is a police intelligence tool that would be degraded if it held everyone's dna checksums. Ben Goldacre did an article on this, see his badscience.net website but because there will be false positives the larger the database the more the false positives the less use it is. For it to work it needs to be targeted at the minority most likely not to be false positives.


Martin said.. Both create possibilities for abuse and also increase the power of the state over the individual.

Then I suggest you don't vote for totalitarian parties or spend your time having fun talking down democracy or politicians. It would stop being funny if the general population took it seriously and decided that liberal democracy was corrupt and useless.