Legislate for freedom

Freedom does not need to be backed up by legislation. It simply exists. When we attempt to protect freedom by legislation, we take away more freedom than we protect.

The previous Government often said that “With rights come responsibilities”. This statement is essentially correct but has been twisted in order to justify more legislation.

I have the right to smoke on private property, providing the property owner gives me permission. This is a right. It does not need backing up by law. When two consenting adults engage in an informed transaction, the state has no business becoming involved.

A non smoker may say they have the right not to breathe other peoples cigarette smoke. They don’t. There is no such right. This is a responsibility. If they do not like breathing cigarette smoke then they have the responsibility not to enter private property where smoking is allowed.

However, when this responsibility is successfully marketed as a right, we legislate. We ban smoking in public places in order to guarantee this right, but in doing so we take away the rights of smokers and property owners.

I have the right to go about my business without state interference. As a law abiding citizen,* this is a right.

A person who is concerned about crime may say they have a right not to be a victim of crime. Again, there is no such right. This is a responsibility. As a responsible and informed adult, I take steps to ensure I do not become a victim of crime. I have a burglar alarm and I do not walk down dark alleys at night, for example. Crime may cross my path one day but I take responsible steps to minimise this risk.

When the right not to be a victim of crime is enshrined in legislation, we take away far more freedoms than we can ever guarantee. We monitor the movements of our citizens. We read their emails, track their car journeys, watch them on CCTV, make they carry an ID card, and constantly demand they prove they are not a criminal.

We said our kiddies have the right not to be molested by a paedophile and made 11 million people submit to intrusive CRB checks in order to keep their jobs.

As adults, we should have the freedom to act as we choose, providing we do no harm to others. When we start to acknowledge the “freedom not to” and legislate to ensure those freedoms, that’s when we take freedom away.

Every time the government introduce a law like this they believe they are acting in the interests of freedom; that they are protecting peoples rights.

Jack Straw  recently said the New Labour Government brought about "…the greatest advances in civil liberties of any post-war government…"

What he means is that they enacted the most legislation. They acknowledged the most “rights not to”, and in doing so, took away the most civil liberties of any post war government.

*I define law abiding as not interfering with others.