Britain’s ‘fundamental resettlement’ of rights; America’s growing deficit
It is rare to be reminded that actual change is possible through the established mechanisms by which the various fictions of government have ended up operating, but that is what occasionally happens, and when it does, those of us who have such contempt for governments as to pretentiously declare them to be “fictions” ought to admit to it. Britain’s polity has actually managed to collectively take such action as to prompt their government to adapt many of those changes which are known to most literate people with a penchant for individual liberty to be necessary and desirable. This is an incredible achievement for any citizen body even when noted sarcastically.
It is very possible that the wholesale gutting of many of Britain’s most malignant intrusions on civil liberties which is now being promised by Nick Clegg will fail. The very fact that such a program has been proposed by the de facto number two man of a major government is among the greatest actual causes for celebration in a lifetime. We have seen great increases in liberty both on the occasion of 1989-1993 and more gradually in nations such as China, but these have tended to involve cruel and incompetent elites letting go at least partially by their own inclination. It would be hard to point to a better example than this of a representative government actually being prompted to give up a great array of its own powers through the functioning of the electoral process itself. Likewise, it would be hard to imagine anything of the sort happening in the U.S.
The Independent relays the bulk of Clegg’s proposals as such:
* scrapping the identity card scheme and second generation biometric passports;
* removing limits on the rights to peaceful protest;
* a bonfire of unnecessary laws;
* a block on pointless new criminal offences;
* internet and email records not to be held without reason;
* closed-circuit television to be properly regulated;
* new controls over the DNA database, such as on the storage of innocent people’s DNA;
* axeing the ContactPoint children’s database;
* schools will not take children’s fingerprints without asking for parental consent;
* reviewing the libel laws to protect freedom of speech.
Of course, the Brits have more to work with than we do in terms of things that need to be revoked, but we have recently been gaining on them – and now, by way of this probable reversal in Britain, we are thus on track to reaching the point at which the U.S. will be on the whole less free than the United Kingdom, which, of course, was the entity from which we declared independence for the purpose of establishing a government that is more free than the United Kingdom.
All of this is to say that the U.S. is about to fail.
The most significant portion of Clegg’s speech, one of the few that I have seen in my lifetime which does not contain some great degree of self-contradictory and plainly false nonsense:
I have spent my whole political life fighting to open up politics.
So I’d like to make one thing very clear:
This government is going to be unlike any other.
This government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state.
This government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to people, because that is quite simply how we can build a society that is fair.
This government is going to persuade you to put your faith in politics once again.
I’m not talking about a few new rules for MPs;
Not the odd gesture or gimmick here or there to make you feel a bit more involved.
I’m talking about the most significant programme of empowerment by a British government since the great reforms of the 19th Century.
The biggest shake up of our democracy since 1832, when the Great Reform Act redrew the boundaries of British democracy, for the first time extending the franchise beyond the landed classes.
Landmark legislation, from politicians who refused to sit back and do nothing while huge swathes of the population remained helpless against vested interests.
Who stood up for the freedom of the many, not the privilege of the few.
And it’s that spirit this government will draw on as we deliver our programme for political reform:
A power revolution.
A fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen that puts you in charge.
Today I want to talk about how we’ll get there.
Three major steps, that will begin immediately:
One: we will repeal all of the intrusive and unnecessary laws that inhibit your freedom.
Two: we will reform our politics so it is open, transparent, decent.
Three: we will radically redistribute power away from the centre, into your communities, your homes, your hands.
Big, sweeping change.
Not incremental, not bit by bit.
Our democracy has suffered at the hands of encroaching centralisation and secrecy for decades.
Take citizens’ rights: eroded by the quiet proliferation of laws that increase surveillance, quash dissent, limit freedom.
Take executive authority: consistently increased by successive administrations to the point that we now have a neutered parliament and government that enjoys almost untrammelled control – over precisely the people who are meant to keep it in check.
Take the welfare state: one of modern society’s greatest liberators – now utterly different to that envisaged by Beveridge because of the sheer degree of centralised control and micromanagement.
Britain was once the cradle of modern democracy.
We are now, on some measures, the most centralised country in Europe, bar Malta.
So, no, incremental change will not do.
It is time for a wholesale, big bang approach to political reform.
That’s what this government will deliver.
I’m a liberal.
My starting point is always optimism about people.
The view that most people, most of the time, will make the right decisions for themselves and their families.
That you know better than I do about how to run your life, your community, the services you use.
So this government is going to trust people.
We know that, when people see a real opportunity to shape the world they live in, they take it.
This last sentence is of particular significance, and the American citizenry ought to give it a few minutes of thought if it happens to find the time to do so.