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What is Liberty?

Comment 29th July 2010

For me, the idea of liberty is, like for so many others, not exactly clear. We know it best when we don't have it. Maybe that is what it is, an absence:

  • No spy cameras looking over my shoulder all the time
  • No government surveillance of my correspondence via email
  • Being able to have a fag in a pub and not being considered a criminal
  • Being able to walk around and not have to present 'papers' or an ID card to the police
  • Not having  bullying government instruction over the minutiae of everyday life

My idea?

Every government minister should be compelled to read two books:

John Stuart Mill's 'On Liberty' (1859). This discusses the nature of liberty and the limits of society's power over the individual.

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville; how a radical democracy, The USA,  in the 1830's  had organised itself; before it was a superpower, while it was still struggling.

We now have struggles; must we abandon liberty?

There are some bright ideas in the coalition programme promoting liberty; electoral reform being one.

The regime of austerity and cuts I abhor, this is just Tory triumphalism overcoming common sense, and will be anti libertarian when they are forced through in the teeth of energetic opposition. This will be when HMG's commitment to liberty will be tested!


Why does this matter?

My idea is only important in that ministers. including the PM, should have had some background in libertarian ideas before they begin to legislate and take my freedoms away.

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