Monday, June 30, 2008

Peter Hitchens on Liberty

"Conservative liberties are really just the freedom to mind your own business, provided you don't break the law. And in a conservative society, the law does not concern itself with thoughts or opinions or speech (unless it is incitement or deliberate provocation to violence) . It only restricts and punishes actions. The things known as 'rights' are restrictions on the state - jury trial, the presumption of innocence, the right to bear arms, the right to a fair and speedy trial, in which you can confront the witnesses against you (I'll be coming back to that).

"Under this code, you can expect that people who rob, kill , cheat rape or destroy will be deterred by stern laws, and caught and punished if deterrence fails. Also that people who break the law will get no advantage out of it.

"Left-wing liberties are significantly different. The basic difference is that, under the Old English system, everything was permitted unless specifically prohibited. Under the New European system, everything is prohibited unless specifically permitted. Man is not assumed to be free, and fit to be free within a limited law and under a limited government. He is the client of the benevolent state, to be granted specific 'rights' by that state.

"For example, it never occurs to the conservative that there is any doubt that he owns the property he has bought and paid for, or that he isn't free to marry and found a family, or bring up his children as he wishes. These are absolute things, which existed before there ever was a state, and the state shouldn't encroach on them. It should also defend them against outside threats, or it has no 'right' or rather reason, to exist.

"But the liberal libertarian (who is in fact a power-worshipper who thinks the state is the embodiment of his own human goodness) wants there to be a 'right' , issued by the state, to private property , to marry, to found a family. He also often speaks of a bizarre thing called a 'right to life' which is mainly an excuse to ban the death penalty for murderers, and certainly doesn't save unborn babies from selfish abortions.

"These rights are granted by authority, not assumed to exist naturally. They are also limited and weakened by conditions, most of which are excuses for the state to forget them when it doesn't suit it. That is partly what is wrong with them. The state giveth, and the state taketh away. In fact a brief study of the European Convention of Human Rights, and its many imitators, will show you that almost every one of its grandiose 'rights', especially the 'right to life' can be withdrawn if the government wants to withdraw it.

From Peter Hitchens' recent piece for the Mail on Sunday, titled 'Why weak justice means the end of freedom'. (Read full article HERE).

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