Last night I watched an excellent discussion programme on libertarianism on 18 Doughty Street.
One highlight was seeing Newmania morph into a Swedish-style social democrat apparently arguing for state-provided piano lessons to expand our freedoms and abilities...to play the piano! Well, Newmania, I've never learnt to ski, so perhaps if you could just spend the next week at work paying for my trip to Val D'Izere next year I'd be most grateful. And then another couple of day to pays for the apres-ski. After all, it would expand my freedoms and potential in this important area terribly...
One publication that Sean Gabb and Brian Micklethwait did mention was The Full Coercive Apparatus Of A Police State: Thoughts On The Dark Side Of The Thatcher Decade.
I quote some extracts below:
"Under section 27 of the Transport Act 1982 - given effect in the summer of 1986 - the Police are empowered to hand out fines to motorists whom they believe to have been speeding or committing some other traffic offence. The money involved is negligible - £24 at the most. The principle is a disgrace. Penalties are now imposed without the ghost of due process. I’m told that, in many European countries, the Police have still wider judicial powers: they even collect the fines. But there hasn’t been a properly limited government anywhere in Europe since the middle ages. Foreigners are so used to misgovernment, it’s no surprise if they stand by grinning while their wallets are gone through by men in uniform. What they’re willing to put up with is no precedent for us."
"Under the old common law, an accused had the right to challenge thirty-five Jurors without showing cause. Anyone who has looked into Howell’s State Trials will know how extensively this right was used in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was there to ensure a more subtle and reliable fairness in the composition of a Jury than could be achieved by the means of showing cause to the Judge. To be fair, the right had already been substantially taken away. The number of peremptory challenges was reduced to twelve in 1925, to seven in 1948, and to three in 1977. But it has fallen, as ever, to this Government to take the decisive step, and reduce the number to zero. The prosecution, of course, keeps its old right of unlimited peremptory challenge."
"Sections 37 and 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 have made theft of a motor car and common assault and battery offences triable by magistrates alone. The excuse given for this was that Crown Courts were too overloaded for there not to be a certain shedding from the list of indictable offences. Between 1979 and 1984, we were told, indictments rose by 48 per cent. But this wasn’t the only answer to the problem. There were at least two others. The first was to stop creating so many new offences. The second was to build and staff more courts. This would have been expensive. But what is expense to a Government that takes and spends upwards of £150 billion every year? If the Department of Trade and Industry was allowed to spend £13 million last year on what was essentially Conservative propaganda, what is the objection to giving a few dozen million extra to the Lord Chancellor’s Department? Which is a more basic function of the State - financing Lord Young’s vanity or providing justice?"
I can't say that I disagree with any of the pamphlet. So much of our political class have forgotten or have never even learnt about England's historic liberties. And so have many of the public. Thank God for the Libertarian Alliance.
And if the Thatcher decade was a decidely mixed bag on the issue of civil liberties, that's nothing to ZaNuLabour's last ten years.
One large problem is that reversing the decline in our liberties would involve repealing some (possibly) fairly populist legislation. Some of that legislation was brought in as a response to or in an attempt to deal with certain social problems. Now, it could well be that those social problems were exacerbated by state intervention in the first place and have not been materially assisted by the legislation to any great degree. But the connections between state intervention and undesirable social outcomes are often complex, and the time delay in cause and effect is often spread over years, if not generations.
Still, the show was an inspiration for Conservatives, UKIP and Orange Book liberal democrats (all five of them) to make the principled case for liberty and the practical case for rolling back the powers of the state.
"Once back here I got to thinking - 'how do I get out of this?' Perhaps the really haunting spectre is that I would have to turn my back on the lake, and the prospect of the sword." Alan Clark, Diaries - 19th May 1999