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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

But the reality of Chakrabarti’s On Liberty, an awkward amalgam of the semi-personal and the mainstream political, never even comes close to realising the promise. Instead, it turns out to be a desperately dull encomium to the human-rights industry, a verveless trudge down Good Cause lane, with every battle against New Labour anti-terror legislation, each scuffle with the ASBO-happy authorities, eventually turning into a victory for the indispensable European Court of Human Rights. Hooray for Strasbourg! If John Stuart Mill wasn’t so liberal (and dead), he’d be within his rights to sue Chakrabarti for calumny.

Tim Black

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7 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Mr Ed

    ‘Liberty’ is the brand of the UK’s self-appointed National Council for Civil Liberties, founded in 1934 and by the 1970s a training ground for future Labour MPs, and which also was at the very least a co-belligerent for the Paedophile Information Exchange, ‘PIE’, whose aims were at least, self-evident.

    Here is what they say about their funding:

    Is Liberty a government body? How is it funded?

    Liberty is entirely independent, receiving no Government funding so that we are free to criticise Government policy in any area where we specialise. We are funded by a combination of membership subscriptions, non-government grants, donations from the public and income earned from a small amount of legal aid.

    Oh and by the way, for a National Council, if you are in Scotland, you can get lost.

    What about if I’m in Scotland?

    Unfortunately, Liberty is unable to offer advice on Scottish issues. This is because of the differences between the English and Scottish legal systems: our lawyers are only qualified to practise law in the English system, so they are not qualified to offer advice on Scottish cases.

    Obviously, Northern Ireland doesn’t even get a mention.

  • Paul Marks

    I know that “Liberty” does not support the right to keep and bear arms – the traditional standard of liberty in both Classical (Greece and Rome) and Germanic (including English Common Law and Norse Law) tradition.

    However, does “Liberty” at least support freedom of speech?

    This must include “hate speech” – racist speech, “homophobic” speech (a basic principle of Christianity and Judaism as well as Islam) and so on.

    If this organisation does not even stand for Freedom of Speech, it is (at best) pointless.

  • “if you are in Scotland, you can get lost.”

    I didn’t realise that. It explains a lot. Weak though Liberty may be – as Paul points out – at least it gets it right sometimes. But who is there to speak up against the banning of speech or the appointment of state guardians for children in Scotland? Well, there’s, er… me…

  • pete

    Why is Chakrabati on the BBC so much?

    She represents nobody but the tiny membership of Liberty.

    It is obvious her views are approved of by many people working at the state broadcaster.

  • Rob

    Weren’t they in favour of Levenson’s state control of the press? Showed their true colours there.

  • Laird

    Well, based solely on that review (and having no experience at all with Liberty the organization), I’m somewhat ambivalent. On the one hand Black criticizes Chakrabati for championing “human rights” as opposed to true liberty, for being wholly legalistic (“her commitment is to the letter of the law, not to the spirit of freedom”), and (apparently) for viewing “rights” as emanating from the State rather than being inherent in the human condition (the Lockean view). I would agree with all those criticisms (assuming, of course, that they are an accurate representation of her views). But then, at the end, he quotes her with clear disapproval: “Rules in the form of human rights and the rule of the law prevent majority rule descending into that of the mob and today’s democracy from becoming tomorrow’s dictatorship.” I would take issue with using the phrase “human rights” in that sentence, because of their malleability and propensity for adaptation into justifications for big government, but who can argue with the rest of it? Why do we have the “rule of law”, and for that matter constitutions, if not to restrain untrammeled majority rule? Black comes across as supporting unrestrained democracy, a position with which I cannot agree. Freedom is too important to be entrusted to voters.

    I get the sense from this article that Liberty has much in common with the US’s ACLU: it takes on an important task, often championing worthy but unpopular causes, but at heart is very statist in its fundamental outlook. The ACLU is an organization which I think I should support, but then it periodically does something so monumentally stupid that I cannot. I suspect that I would feel the same way about Liberty.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I second what Laird wrote in the 1st paragraph (and am not qualified to speak about the 2nd).
    To which i add:

    * I don’t know Tim Black (should i?) but his mentioning JS Mill and no other thinker that we know and admire (apart from the Founding Fathers) leaves me feeling uncomfortable.

    * As Tim Black put it, “Mill in On Liberty was concerned with the flourishing of the individual”; “Chakrabarti, by contrast, is concerned with protecting the individual”. Taken at face value, these 2 sentences out of context suggests that Mill was a social liberal, while Chakrabarti is a minarchist. The rest of that paragraph actually supports this conclusion, but the rest of the review does not. Make of that whatever you wish.