A Future for Freedom

I could be forgiven for thinking freedom has no future, with the upcoming generation so schooled to despise it. Daniel Hannan thinks differently and made his point in a conversation Zoomed to the faithful this evening.

The Anglosphere was to be much in evidence, and the norms we have taken for granted over generations: as Mr Hannan was born outside it, in Darkest Peru, and spent much of his career outside it, in Darkest Brussels, he may have a better perspective then those of us sitting comfortably in our homes.

The norms and shared assumptions of the Anglosphere are not inevitable nor is an open society a given any more even within the English-speaking world. There is more hope though than we think. This formed a theme to follow.

However, just as for years every political conversation turned out to be about Brexit, now it was all COVID-19 for the first half-hour or so. I began thinking that it took away from the big topics of the world, where freedom is imperilled, but as it went on, the reason became clear – the lockdown restrictions (which Daniel Hannan has always opposed) and the sheep-like compliance of the nation are very much a practical outworking of the state of personal freedom in the land. As he said at one point, it is so utterly unlike all we have understood of British attitudes that we wait for the government to tell us what we should do.

Personally, I have largely ignored the lockdown, though I am in a fortunate enough position to be able to do so.

A key point for the future is whether and how the government’s new, extraordinary powers will end. The Act that imposed them has a sunset clause, though a generous one. Mr Hannan recalled that wartime emergency measures were largely continued in peacetime, and some restraints on commercial freedom begun in 1940 just for the duration were not if fact lifted until Margaret Thatcher’s reforms. There is too much temptation upon governments, in particular strong governments, to hold on to those powers. Mercifully we have a Prime Minister who believes deeply in personal freedom and has written about it throughout his career, so his every personal instinct should be to let go of those powers and maximise personal freedom. Imagine if it were Tony Blair in Number 10 now.

Throughout the discussion on the lockdown, it came down to the philosophy of freedom, and that infuses the whole topic.

(I am bound to quote Hobbes here in a cynical frame with the reminder that “The Libertie, whereof there is so frequent, and honourable mention, in the Histories, and Philosophy of the Antient Greeks, and Romans, and in the writings, and discourse of those that from them have received all their learning in the Politiques, is not the Libertie of Particular men; but the Libertie of the Commonwealth“, but with that puissance of the state assumed, it defends the freedoms of its subjects which we would not enjoy were there no Commonwealth, which is to say no state.)

Freedom is in peril if too few care about it. The upcoming generation, we are told, have been schooled out of belief in freedom or free thought, and certainly many despise it. There is hope that this is a minority. There is something desperately sad about these pupils, after so much has been spent nominally educating them and taking up their childhoods, and that is that if they do not know how to think alternative thoughts then they do not know how to think at all, so that in real life, when it hits them eventually, they will fail and drop to the bottom of the heap, while those who ignored that form of education, who can think, will rise and thrive. Those politically activist teachers have betrayed hundreds of thousands of children in their care and damned them to the scrapheap.

Moving ahead on the same theme of distorted philosophy, the talk could hardly fail to look over the bizarre antics around the street protests we saw last month, the logic of which does not stack up. However as Daniel Hannan observed, there will be this sort of soixante-dix-huitard protest in every generation – the dangerous aspect is the obeisance of the broadcast media and even the police.

Even so, there is hope in the darkness, because in reality there is only a small patch of darkness – it is just managing to suck all discourse into it. If it is seen for what it is – a small number of very loud voices who should be ignored or mocked, then we can get on with our lives. the question is how to convince the woke-obsequious media of that.

There is a future for freedom, even in the absence of such heroes as the irreplaceable Roger Scruton. I struggle sometimes to convince myself of it. What I know is that the Anglosphere has a better chance for it than foreign lands without that heritage.

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Author: AlexanderTheHog

A humble scribbler who out of my lean and low ability will lend something to Master Hobbes