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A new kind of freedom

As the report stage of the Identity Cards Bill approaches in the Lords, a reminder of one highlight from the first day of the committee stage Hansard, 15 Nov 2005, Col.1012:

Lord Gould of Brookwood: Both the previous speakers—the latter with great emotion—were arguing for freedom. We have to ask what greater freedom is there than the freedom to place a vote for a political party in a ballot box upon the basis of a mandate and a manifesto. That is the crux of it: the people have supported this measure. That is what the noble Earl’s father fought for. But that is too trivial an answer. I know that. The fundamental argument is that the truth is that people believe that these identity cards will affirm their identity. The noble Lord opposite said that he likes to be in this House and how he is recognised in this House because it is a community that recognises him. That is how the people of this nation feel. They feel that they are part of communities, and they want recognition. For them, recognition comes in the form of this identity card. Noble Lords may think that that is strange, but it is what they feel. This is their kind of freedom. They want their good, hard work and determination to be recognised, rewarded and respected. That is what this does.

Of course it is right and honourable for noble Lords to have their views, but I say there is another view, and it is the view of the majority of this country. They want to have the respect, recognition and freedom that this card will give them. Times have changed. Politics have changed. What would not work 50 years ago, works now. It is not just me. I have the words of the leader of your party:

“I have listened to the police and security service chiefs. They have told me that ID cards can and will help their efforts to protect the lives of British citizens against terrorist acts. How can I disregard that?”.

This is not some silly idea of the phoney left. It is a mainstream idea of modern times. It is a new kind of identity and a new kind of freedom. I respect the noble Lords’ views, but it would help if they respected the fact that the Bill and the identity cards represent the future: a new kind of freedom and a new kind of identity.

This is the sort of rhetoric that makes my blood run cold. Here’s a prefiguring example:

In our state the individual is not deprived of freedom. In fact, he has greater liberty than an isolated man, because the state protects him and he is part of the State. Isolated man is without defence
– Benito Mussolini

Terry Eagleton (from a review of Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism in the New Statesman) elucidates the connection:

Conservatives disdain the popular masses, while fascists mobilise and manipulate them. Some conservatives believe in ideas, but fascists have a marked preference for myths. If they think at all, they think through their blood, not their brain. Fascists regard themselves as a youthful, revolutionary avant-garde out to erase the botched past and create an unimaginably new future.

All supporters of the old-fashioned conception of individual liberty, whether they think of themselves as left or right, conservative or progressive, must do what can be done. Resist. We should not expect any quarter for outdated ideas under a new kind of freedom.

[cross-posted from White Rose]

39 comments to A new kind of freedom

  • We have to ask what greater freedom is there than the freedom to place a vote for a political party in a ballot box upon the basis of a mandate and a manifesto.

    And there is the root of the problem. These people see politics, i.e. the use of the collective means of coercion, as the highest form of human activity. Participating in the process of compelling other people to do things via the threat of force is the be all and end all of human existence. That is why I regard them as, quite literally, mentally ill.

    There is simply no room for individuals and social interaction, only politically mediated interaction.

  • Sounds like Lenin talking about the “New Soviet Man.” Here’s a start towards setting up one’s life with an eye towards resistance.

  • Bernie

    Truly a profound new low in British politics. Perry’s comment above hits squarely on the mark.

  • guy herbert

    Quite, Perry.

    One should also note that Philip Gould appears to think that freedoms currently at the root of our constitution: not to vote at all; to vote for a representative rather than a political party; to choose for oneself the basis of one’s decision–all of them summed up in election-as-choice–are lesser freedoms than the chemin-de-fer of party rule.

    The whole passage lends itself to close reading, which is why I quoted it. Here in a nutshell is the political creed of The Elect.

  • John East

    Lets not forget that Lord Gould is at the heart of Nulabour. One of Blair’s closest allies and a founding father of the movement.

    Dare I risk invoking Godwin’s Law, something I rarely do. To me his newspeak is pure fascism, he would undoubtably have received resounding applause had he made a similar speech in the Reichstag 70 years ago.

  • karl.rove

    Interesting that libertarians and liberals are both hysterically against ID cards.

  • Luniversal

    If you are going to range yourself on the side of conservative traditionalism rather than ‘modernity’ (of which fascism was the first serious manifestation in the mouths of Marinetti, D’Annunzio, Chirico etc) then you will have to accept some possibly distasteful propositions:

    (1) The nation state, not the globalised world

    (2) Race (= extended family) solidarity, not ‘universal humanity’ or the divide-and-conquer deceit of ‘individualism’

    (3) Limited government, not libertarian anarchy or the monolithic state

    (4) Religion, not secularised ethics

    (5) Consolidation, not accumulation or aggrandisement

    The fourth proposition is the key one. If you do not despise this world and believe that at best it is a preparation for a better one, you are a bogus conservative, and you have no sure defence against the inanities of ‘progress’ and ‘democracy’ or the blandishments of ‘modernity’. You will never be more than a brake on the runaway coach.

    A monoracial, stable polity has no need of identity cards, since its members know who they are and who their friends are. They also know their limits, their own business and how to mind it.

    A state on the lines of the degenerate USA– a smorgasbord of indigestible incompatibilities– will always wind up enslaving its own folks and persecuting others. Perhaps we can afford one America, but a world composed of such multicultural entities would be a planet divided by aggression.

    Ethno-cultural stratification– the process of rationalising frontiers which has been going on since World War One ended with interruptions– is a hopeful trend in the other direction. Empires have crumbled. But mob-handed travel and international labour markets remain a danger, and not just because terrorists travel incognito thereby. It is best that the masses in different nations and races should communicate ‘virtually’ rather than commingle physically. Now that the vanguard countries of the Third World, China and India, are setting examples of autarchic growth, others may imitate them and tolerance of brain drains to the greedy, lazy West may diminish. We may also see the voluntary return to their ancestral countries of non-whites who do not fit into the western world. ‘Good fences make good neighbours’– and rob tyrants such as Gould of the flimsy rationale for their dragooning of Her Majesty’s subjects.

  • guy herbert

    karl.rove – Not really. Libertarians are generally more liberal than the “liberals” of your theogony.

    Liberal-ism is a preference for liberty of the old sort. You know, the one where freedom implies the entitlement to do something other than the ‘democratic will of the people’, a possibility of negotiating what communities one joins or repudiates. We worry about universal surveillance and state-assigned identities on the assumption that being watched and classified leads to being regulated and instructed.

  • guy herbert

    … which is why we’re appalled by “ethno-cultural stratification” (How very modern and inclusive! it used to be called apartheid or rassenhygiene) of the sort Luniversal advocates. Nazis and fascists may have theoretical differences but they mean a similar fate for human freedoms in practice.

  • Julian Taylor

    karl.rove, the difference is that Perry, as a Libertarian leader, has a much better taste in alcoholic beverages.

    John East hit the nail perfectly – the problem is Philip Gould and his master’s short-termism dictat. What happens when they find that, contrary to whatever Ian Blair advises them, that ID cards really don’t prevent terrorism, state benefit theft or even Kate Moss sniffing up Bolivia’s finest export? Should we expect some kind of Kafka-esque barcoding system, groups of 3 unemployed Brits standing around on street corners with orders to monitor and report or should we expect something like this little public display of NuLabour paranoia.

    To quote Benjamin Franklin,

    They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

  • Luniversal, that is pure crypto-fascist drivel.

    1. The nation-state is the engine of collectivism and tyranny.
    2. Race means nothing meaningful except to a few moonbats such as yourself. One only needs to look at the breathtaking rate of miscegenation in Britain. People have voted with their genitalia and you lost the election.
    3. Limited government is exactly what I want because of the need to deprive loathsome people like you opportunities for getting their hands on the collective means of coercion.
    4. Of course religion appeals to you: it is sanctified idiocy… rather like elevating skin colour to something of importance come to think about it.
    5. Feel free to stagnate back in the ‘good old day’ (wherever they were). I am off to the networked globalised transhuman future and you ain’t invited. Ciao.

  • Derek Buxton

    I find the Lord Gould’s comments disgusting and can have no respect for such a man, peerage or not. Wonder how much it cost? Bring back the Hereditory Peers ASAP and let us have proper governance.

  • Lord Gould has a letter in The Guardian today:

    “This is the moment of New Labour’s victory”

    He obviously thinks that NuLabour have “won” and will continue inflict his sort of policies on all the rest of us, given the weakness of the political opposition.

  • Verity

    “Lord” Gould. “Lord Gould of Brookswood”. Oh, please! This is what gets stuffed up into our second chamber without a by your leave of the electorate. Utter human garbage. “Lord Gould of Brookswood” belongs in the bin for the council workers to pick up.

    David Cameron should – but of course, won’t – promise to kick every life “peer” out and to stop the whole foul practice of creating them. Our second chamber should be elected. I’m sure “Lord” Gould will understand as he is shovelled out the door onto the street, him being such a big fan of democracy and all.

  • Interesting how similiar Goulds idea is the Karl Marx,”The individual can only individuate themselves in society” IIRC

  • It is worse that that Peter, Gould is saying the people can only be validated by the state! Society is just an emergent characteristic produced by social (not political) interactions… he is talking about giving people a sense of worth by imposing an artefact of the state on them whether they like it or not, as if a sense of one’s own worth was his to dispense as a reward.

    This is collectivist thinking in its most extreme and hubristic form and if he can say it without causing several million gasps, we will see how far things have decayed.

  • “…and if he can say it without causing several million gasps, we will see how far things have decayed.”

    I do hope you are braced for disappointment.

  • I do hope you are braced for disappointment.

    I am, but the fight must go on. There are also countervailing currents. All it not lost.

  • Perry:

    “Race means nothing meaningful except to a few moonbats such as yourself.”

    Then I’m afraid you’ll have to range me alongside the moonbats.

    As Charles Murray pointed out in The Bell Curve, race is just a convenient way to discuss groups whose members are alike in some way that renders them detectably different from others not in their group. At the extreme of obviousness, we have physical appearance. At the extreme of subtlety, we have attitudes toward exogamy. At many points between, the groups we normally refer to as the races of Man differ in perceptible, measurable ways.

    Are there crosses? Of course. “Race” is not “species.” Moreover, it would be healthful to discuss whether intermarriage among the races is slowly erasing the races, or whether it’s giving rise to new ones. If the former, where will the current differences settle out? If the latter, how do the “new” races differ from the “old”ones, which arose during times of geographical confinement from one another?

    Are there gray zones and zones of transition? Of course. But these don’t disqualify race as a meaningful conception, any more than the existence of mules means that there’s no meaningful difference between horses and donkeys.

    Granted that racial conceptions have led to political abuses and social pathologoes. But it’s unwise to deny apparent facts in the hope that all the associated troubles will go away. It calls to mind the attempt to curb homicide by banning guns. I seem to recall that Britain was trying that; how’s it working out?

    Fran Porretto

  • John East

    This comment is OT so I’ll keep it short. I may not ingratiate myself with Perry on this one, although I would be surprised if he objected to this sentiment.

    We will finally have to accept that political correctness has taken over when the views you expressed above produce universal outrage and denunciation.

    I doubt that your comments would be acceptable today anywhere in the MSM, which just leaves a few academic journals and the blogosphere. At least this blog is one place left where one can raise such a topic.

  • Albion

    It calls to mind the attempt to curb homicide by banning guns. I seem to recall that Britain was trying that; how’s it working out?

    Well race relation in Britain are working pretty damn well, so you might not want to make that analogue. My wife is quite English, it just happens that her parents came from India. My brother’s wife is Chinese and I have a cousin who is married to a great lady from Jamacia (who is actually half-Lebanese, just to confuse things).

  • Gripping as it is, I do not want further discussions of race to deflect attention from the dire subject matter at hand in this article. Please stay on-target. Consider this ex-cathedra.

  • Even if you believe in politically mediated interaction, and the freedom of casting the ballot (remember to wave your fist emphatic when saying that phrase; emphatic facial expression is optional), you have to question how that applies here, when only 22% of the populace voted for the Labour party, and not all of them will have subscribed to every single thing in the manifesto. The Salisbury Convention is quite indefensible.

  • Keith

    “This is collectivist thinking in its most extreme and hubristic form and if he can say it without causing several million gasps, we will see how far things have decayed.”
    He can and we will.

  • Luniversal

    Deleted. Which bit of ‘stay on target’ did you not understand? Banned.

  • Keith

    I’ll mention the unmentionable–much more of the crap that’s spouted by Lord Gould, and the BNP will begin to look like the only option left to voters.

  • guy herbert

    I don’t see how that follows, Keith. Though they are committed opponents of state identity control, so is every other party in Britain, now, with the exception of the Official Ulster Unionists, a one man band called the John Lilburne Democratic Party, and peculiar British Nazi group called N9S.

    There were hundreds of options for voters when I last looked, but I’m nonplussed why you would think that the only one that offers a chance of escaping New Labour’s corporate totalitarianism is a small organisation inhabiting nearby parts of the extreme centre that saved its deposit in only 34 seats at the last general election, and at best got 17% (in, appropriately enough, Barking). Even in its currently imploded state, the LibDem Party looks like a more viable option.

  • Keith

    True enough, Guy. I guess it was just laziness on my part, but what I meant was that if the antidote to Gould’s frightening vision for Britain can’t be found in a mainstream party, then the extremists will begin to look a heck of a lot more attractive.

  • John East

    Francis was replying to your comment:

    “Race means nothing meaningful except to a few moonbats such as yourself.”

    Why was your comment not OT, but his comment OT.

    I sense another agenda, and I for one will now move on to other blogs that profess and practice free speech.

  • Because I drew a line under that digression and so the subsequent comments from that point onwards were officially unacceptably off-topic. Also, there is no ‘free speech’ on private property, just invited speech.

    Moreover I have seen tiresome rascists like him endlessly turn topic after topic into a discussion of racial intelligence before. I do not object to that subject per se and I do not take the position that everyone who take a contrary view on this subject to me is simply an idiot racist (though bitter experience suggests they usually are), but I did ask for the comments to stay on topic in this case and not only did he refuse, he insulted me. Therefore I banned him. Simple really.

  • John East

    …but I did ask for the comments to stay on topic in this case and not only did he refuse, he insulted me. Therefore I banned him.

    I assume from this comment that there was a deleted post which I did not see. If this was the case then I apologise for the misunderstanding.

  • Nick Timms

    I fear that the battle over ID cards is already lost. I recently spent the day with quite a large group of people from differing but reasonably successful walks of life. A police inspector, two vice presidents of different international banks, the widow of a senior RAF officer, a retired civil engineer who project managed the construction of several very large oil refineries around the world, two company owner/directors and their spouses/partners.

    With the exception of the policeman’s wife I was the only person who had any concerns about the issue.

    Most people seemed to think it was unimportant to oppose ID cards because all of us are already tagged by the state through NI numbers, NHS numbers, credit cards, driving licences, tax returns etc etc.

    Changing the meta context that rules most peoples conciousness will take an awful lot more than blogs that are read by a fairly small number of people. Unfortunately.

  • Verity

    Nick Timms – You are right. People see the battle as already won – won years ago, before they were aware there was a battle. I fear they are right.

    All hail Guy Herbert, but I think most British these days have been comatose for so long they sincerely do not understand the issue. Worse, they don’t care. Identity creep, through their NHS number, their drivers’ licenses, their credit card numbers, has dulled their senses.

    They’re soma people. They did it to themselves. Through not being vigilant. Guy Herbert is being vigilant and I wish him all the luck in the world. I won’t even add a ‘but’…

  • Johnathan

    Luniversal: racist jackass. drop dead

  • Julian Taylor

    Apropos Nick Timms’ comment, are there any statistics available to demonstrate that the ID card would actually allow for centralisation of information by the state? At the moment it looks to me rather like just another passport system, only with extra state browbeating and intimidation added in.

  • Karl Rove

    I repeat – if ID cards are a threat to freedom, surely the Guardian & the LibDems wd support them, instead of being hysterically against them. The Guardian, like the Staat, is not your friend.

  • guy herbert

    Not statistics, Julian. (How can you have statistics without data?) But set out as explicit goals in published government documents. The best digested source is the favourable coverage given by Michael Cross in the Guardian. Perhaps this is a good introduction. Or this.

    The Regulatory Impact Assessment (which is no such thing: no measure of impact is attempted and it is more like a combination of sales-brochure and wish-list) that accompanied the first appearance of the Identity Cards Bill, is also eye-opening. PDF here.

  • guy herbert

    Karl Rove,

    That’s the most spectacularly oafish comment I can recall seeing on posted on Samizdata for quite a while, which is saying something. Let’s try it with a number of other things else the Guardian and LibDems oppose:

    …if press censors are a threat to freedom, surely the Guardian & the LibDems wd support them, instead of being hysterically against them

    …if the Taliban are a threat to freedom, surely the Guardian & the LibDems wd support them, instead of being hysterically against them

    …if arbitrary detentions of suspects are a threat to freedom, surely the Guardian & the LibDems wd support them, instead of being hysterically against them

    …if military dictatorships are a threat to freedom, surely the Guardian & the LibDems wd support them, instead of being hysterically against them

    My enemies’ enemy is my friend.

  • It’s like declaring slavery to be “freedom” as it’s the ultimate “freedom from having to think for yourself.”