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Do you know where to find a Braille copy of Mill’s On Liberty?

Frank Sensenbrenner wants David Blunkett to understand that liberty does indeed mean the freedom to do what you want, rather than the freedom to do what he wants people to do

John Stuart Mill asserted that “The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good, in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.” Yet David Blunkett, the British home secretary, seems to have skipped that chapter. In a recent Daily Telegraph conference, Blunkett submitted that “we cannot have a society in which liberty means the freedom to do whatever one wants when it affects no one”, or something to that effect. Why not? At the very heart of a libertarian philosophy is the acceptance of personal responsibility for one’s actions. After all, social impulses govern more efficiently than diktat. Who is harmed by individuals performing acts affecting only themselves? It is up to Mr Blunkett to suggest an alternative definition of liberty to replace the current ‘airy-fairy’ meaning.

Perhaps Blunkett has attended one too many Council of Europe meetings, and has adopted the Continentalist view that personal liberties derive from the State’s ability to grant them, and all powers not expressly granted in a social contract remain with the State. Anglospherists, on the other hand, believe that the only reason for an authority’s legitimacy is the consent of the governed. Europeans lean on an antediluvian notion of “divine right” to defend their views. Promulgated by Jean-Jacques Colbert, the concept of the “divine right of kings” was used to defend Louis XIV against accusations of gross mismanagement of his subjects, and has survived today as a crutch for governments in similar situations. Currently, this reflects an ‘intellectual’ elitism worthy of Plato’s Republic, on the level of both the nation-state and of the EU. Monnet always maintained of the need for European integration to be controlled by an elite, while referenda are either manipulated or ignored.

Blunkett’s final defence is that liberty is elitist, and insignificant to individuals in dire economic straits. If the 1990 domino fall of Communism proved anything, it was the esteem of liberty as the pinnacle of social values, even among people who were materially disadvantaged. While it may not be material, freedom is essential to the quality of life enjoyed in Western, and especially Anglospherist, nations.

Frank Sensenbrenner

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