Liberty – The primary political value
Travellers to this country in centuries gone by used to marvel at the Englishman’s remarkable love of liberty. Indeed, it was our defining characteristic.
“I am in a country which scarcely resembles the rest of Europe. England is passionately fond of liberty, and every individual is independent”
– Baron De Montesquieu, 1729
It is one of the most fascinating threads of British history, and something of which we can all be unequivocally proud. People of certain political and philosophical persuasion understand instinctively what liberty means as a political value, but their numbers seem to be dwindling and we no longer represent the dominant school of thought.
Liberty was won and conserved in this country because it was cherished by intellectuals, influential politicians and the people alike. Now our most influential intellectuals can be generally relied upon to be statist, Left wing and advocates of the government as nanny. Our politicians are in hock to the security services, the public health lobby and the “something must be done” culture and routinely trample over our rights, to the point that we have become desensitized to it.
It’s frustrating to see how far down the list of priorities the conservation of liberty now stands in the minds of politicians, and distressing that the British people are so complacent and docile, so willing to accept the loss of rights and freedoms for the illusion of security and the want of an easy life, where they needn’t think too hard, or get have any active involvement in politics.
Liberty has been steadily eroded over the last century and, like a crumbling cliff face, vast swathes have fallen since 1997 in the age of new Labour and the paranoid “war on terror”. Now there is a sinister political consensus of illiberalism enrapturing all of the parties.
It is now no longer about merely conserving the liberties we have, but taking back the ones we lost. Furthermore, we are in dire need of a cultural shift and a massive intellectual reformation to champion liberty.
In a free society, government should consider liberty to be the primary political value and thus always consider whether its actions will increase or reduce the freedom of the individual.
For a free society to thrive the government must be legitimised by consent and the individual’s right to liberty, private property, equality before the law, freedom of expression, freedom of thought and freedom of religion must be protected.
The power of government should be constrained so as to allow the individual as much freedom as is possible without infringing upon the freedom of anyone else.
Freedom of thought and expression should be absolute. Most important of all is the freedom of the person who thinks differently, even if it is deemed unorthodox, immoral, or abhorrent by the majority.
Freedom means nothing if it does not also stand for those who think differently. It is the right of every free individual to be heard and everyone in a free society to be exposed to what they have to say.
In-fact, it is essential for a truly open and free society that the person with the opinion that violates the established truth and righteousness of a particular proposition is allowed to express themselves.
Even the most apparently malicious and false opinions must be allowed out in the open where they can be scrutinised, considered and debated rather than allowed to fester in the dark. For who can be the judge of what opinions can and cannot be heard? Who can bestow themselves with this profound authority with any genuine legitimacy?
These are very basic principles which should go without saying, but are they adhered to in Britain today? Are they cherished and protected? Are they taught as an essential part of our cultural heritage to be nurtured and passed on?
The greatest protection of liberty is its inheritability through the generations and the perpetual advancement and dispersal of knowledge. Whenever and wherever ignorance prevails liberty is not safe.
We must cherish this, the most highest of values.
Ben is the Conservatives for Liberty Online Director. Follow him on Twitter: @TheScepticIsle
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty