It is not about the personal risks associated with legal and illegal drugs or various sports such as horse-riding although that is a reasonable means of showing up the inconsistency of the legality and illegality of particular substances and activities.
Rather, it is What gives ‘society’ the ‘right’ to dictate what I may not do to myself?
It has been seriously suggested that society has no such right.
That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.
In no case, then, should prohibitive laws be enacted, when the advantage or disadvantage refers solely to the proprietor. Again, it is not enough to justify such restrictions, that an action should imply damage to another person; it must, at the same time, encroach upon his rights.
(caveats apply in relation to mental faculties)
The moral authority of the majority is partly based upon the notion that there is more intelligence and wisdom in a number of men united than in a single individual, and that the number of the legislators is more important than their quality. The theory of equality is thus applied to the intellects of men; and human pride is thus assailed in its last retreat by a doctrine which the minority hesitate to admit, and to which they will but slowly assent. Like all other powers, and perhaps more than any other, the authority of the many requires the sanction of time in order to appear legitimate. At first it enforces obedience by constraint; and its laws are not respected until they have been long maintained.
Not to be out-done, the Conservatives recently pledged to introduce a ‘repeal bill’ too. But they want to repeal the Human Rights Act as well as Labour’s illiberal legislation:
The Conservatives’ pledge comes as the party also continues to demand repeal of the Human Rights Act. In a message of support to the convention the Tory leader, David Cameron, condemned the act for providing a “veneer of respectability” to the erosion of civil liberties under Labour. He said his party would replace the act with a British bill of rights to “better tailor, but also strengthen, the protection of our core rights”.
It does indeed provide a “veneer of respectability”, but that doesn’t mean the Act is a Bad Thing in itself.
Antagonism toward the Act seems to stem from the fact that we are prohibited from deporting people to countries where they face a real risk of torture. But we will continue to be prohibited from doing so while we remain signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, no matter what a domestic piece of legislation says.
A propos of my earlier post on what recent legislation we should try to repeal in order to reclaim our lost civil liberties, I was struck by the thought that it might be easier to simply repeal every piece of legislation introduced since 1997.
Off the top of my head I can think of nothing Messrs Blair and Brown have done that is worthy of retention. Have I missed something or shall we ditch the lot?
John Ozimek at The Register on the Convention on Modern Liberty in Cambridge:
… If the panel sessions were largely about people agreeing strenuously with one another, the afternoon debate (in Cambridge), between Government Minister Bill Rammell, MP and David Howarth, MP summarised in one short exchange what the real issue is. Both speakers agreed that the other side “just don’t get it”.
Both spoke of balance. Bill Rammell reiterated the government view that the greatest civil liberty of all was the right not to be blown up, killed or terrorised. Those who opposed CCTV were, he suggested, out of touch with the ordinary people of Britain.
David Howarth claimed that liberty went much deeper, that it was more than the absence of risk, and that if we had taken the government’s line in 1940, we would have surrendered at the first sign of war because otherwise, “people might have been killed”. Some things, he argued, are worth fighting (and dying) for. …
Here is a video of that particular debate. David Howarth made a number of very good points. Bill Rammell… did not. Particularly difficult to understand why he claimed he did not grow up in a world where there was risk of proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. He was born in 1959 and therefore should be well aware of the Cold War, which among other things involved a nuclear arms race (indeed a number of attendees took issue with the claim that the public are more at danger today than ever before, having grown up during or since the Second World War). He also claimed this Government was the first to introduce some statutory protection for suspects in terms of the Human Rights Act 1998. But a major piece of legislation protecting suspects was the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, introduced by a Conservative Government. Another load of guff from a Labour shill. But as if that wasn’t enough, yet more was to come from Tariq Sadiq.
The Convention on Modern Liberty has released a detailed report compiled for us by the UCL Student Human Rights Programme, listing all the liberties we’ve lost in the past decade. You can download the ‘Abolition of Freedom Act’ here.
The report was released by Convention Co-Directors Henry Porter and Anthony Barnett yesterday at a press conference with David Davis.
See here for a powerful report on the document in today’s Independent.