Skip to comments.How Free is Britain?
Posted on 02/24/2005 12:32:34 AM PST by ijcr
A former colleague of mine was involved as an expert witness for the defendant in a civil case not long ago. A short time thereafter, he bumped into the judge at a golf clubhouse, who half recognised him.
"Are you a doctor?", he said.
"Yes", replied my colleague.
"And weren't you a witness in a case recently?"
The judge then asked him what he thought of the outcome. My colleague replied: "I think that the defendant would have received a fairer hearing in a kangaroo court run by generals in a South American military dictatorship".
I need hardly say that this remark brought the conversation to a close. But as reported, it set me thinking about the nature of our own freedom: how much freer are we than the citizens of a South American dictatorship (in the old days, where there were such things)? How free, exactly, are we?
I don't want to indulge in any self-pitying false comparisons. We have neither Gestapo nor Gulag, and it is an insult to all those who have experienced such things in their own flesh and blood (or bone, as they say in Spanish, perhaps more accurately) to compare our small tribulations with theirs. Irritations are not tragedies.
Nevertheless, I think we are less free than we used to be. The weight of the state is making itself everywhere felt. In my former professional life as a doctor, for example, I was obliged more and more to obey the dictates of ministers, rather than those of my medical beliefs.
Whereas when I started out on my career all that was necessary to continue in practice was that I should be qualified and that I should refrain from behaving in an egregious or outrageous manner, by the time I retired this year I had to fulfil all sorts of requirements, all of which (in this age of evidence-based medicine) were quite without evidence of use or efficacy. But that is not the real point of such requirements: they are not there to improve the quality of medical practice; they are there to let us all know who is boss. And even if they were effective, which is intrinsically very difficult to prove, they would still represent a loss of liberty.
The fact is that the requirements laid down by ministers and their bureaucrats now take up fully half the time of senior doctors, when they could be doing clinical work, and this at a time of shortage of medical manpower. Most doctors, except for the apparatchiks among them, are profoundly unhappy about this, and are taking retirement as soon as possible.
An increasing proportion of medical graduates never practice medicine, because the career is now so deeply unattractive to them, and they can do better elsewhere. Having brought this situation about, the government has launched its Improving Working Lives initiative, still failing to realise that it is the sinner, not the saviour.
There are other ways in which the state (by which I mean all agencies vested with public power) weighs increasingly heavily upon us, quite apart from the fact that we spend nearly a half of our working life paying for it. Here are a few random indicators:
1. The other day, at dawn, a large council vehicle parked outside my house with a very tall crane-like attachment, from the top of which photographs were taken of the neighbourhood, including my house. No one had felt obliged explain why, or for what purpose the photographs were to be used. The city is the council's and the fullness thereof.
2. Once a year, I receive through the post a letter marked with the exhortatory words, "Don't lose your right to vote register now". Added to this is the warning, in case I don't feel like exercising my right, "Failure to comply could lead to a £1000 fine". This is like being accosted by a beggar in the street who simultaneously appeals to your charity and menaces you if you don't cough up.
3. Every few months, I receive a letter from the TV licensing agency, who do not believe that I do not have a television. Once again I am threatened with a £1000 fine, and also warned that my house will soon be spied upon unless I buy a licence.
4. When I drive out in my car, I am immediately in the presence, every few hundred yards, of cameras. (The British are now the most heavily surveyed people by CCTV in the world. There were more than fifty CCTV cameras in the hospital in which I worked, most of them hidden.) I don't want to drive like a lunatic, and in fact conduct on the road is the one aspect of British behaviour that is still superior to that of most foreigners, and was so even before the cameras were emplaced. Even if they are effective, and reduce accidents, they add to the pervasive feeling of being spied upon by the state.
5. Our police now look more like an occupying military force than citizenry in uniform. They are both menacing and ineffectual (quite an achievement), and even law-abiding citizens are now afraid of them. If you want to ask the time, don't bother a policeman. I know from medico-legal experience that the police are far more interested in preserving themselves from the public than from preventing or investigating crimes, up to and including attempted murder. This is not because, as individuals, they are bad men and women; it is because of the same kind of bureaucratic regulation imposed on them as it has been imposed on doctors and other professions.
6. I own a flat in London and have recently learned that I must replace a boiler, not because it does not work or because it is dangerous, but because the regulations have changed, for reasons that it would be impossible to discover, except that they obey the rule of Keynesian economics to stimulate demand and keep it stimulated. And this in practice would mean that, if I still want gas heating, I have to put a new boiler in my living room.
And so it goes on and on. Very rarely nowadays do I feel myself free of the state. Its power has increased, is increasing and ought to be decreased. But I am not the man to do it. By retiring, I have withdrawn myself from it as far as possible. Il faut cultiver notre jardin.
Anthony Daniels is a writer and retired earlier this year as a doctor.Daniels has had many of his articles posted on FR under his nom de plume.
So without using a search engine...what is Dr. Daniels' nom de plume?
Answer: not very. As Admiral Nelson used to say, thank God I live in a civilized country.
I wonder if Mad Ivan knows...
How free is Britain today? More so than they will be tomorrow. Just wait until that EU "Constitution" takes full effect. Having a German hobnail boot on their throat and a French high heel on their b@lls ought to make them really feel like they've become part and parcel of "Europe". (Or should I say Eurabia?)
You can do that in the US too.. =o)
Interesting article. I'm afraid the US isn't far behind.
His articles appear in City Journal and at times in the Daily Telegraph.
I don't feel less than free. But then again, I'm not in a highly regulated profession like a doctor. The biggest bit of regulation I have to face at the moment is Sarbanes Oxley since I work for an American firm.
PS - you'd be better off asking a fencepost than Jovial Cad what he thinks, he's an anti-British bigot.
It surely isn´t. What kind of freedom is it when you are not allowed to drink a beer on the (public) beach, or aren´t allowed to smoke even in bars, restaurants? Buckle up, it´s the law, ok, I get this since it´s not a big thing and it serves you as well as the society both. But where does it end?
Ivan, dear boy,
You should take a look at Nanny Knows Best if you've never seen it. If even half of what they say is true, the Englishman's liberties are a shadow of what they once were.
The fact that we complain as much as we do about an intrusive state is indicative of our basic liberties still being in place.
I should point out, it's apparent that both the Tories and Liberals are going to run the next election partially on a platform of rolling back some of the encroachments Labour has made.
Remember the good old days? When it seemed like Heath, Wilson, Callaghan were always battling the Miner's Union? Or, saving the pound from IMF restrictions? So simple back then.
For me the good old days were when Mrs. Thatcher was handbagging the hell out of everyone.
"oursouls: Since 2005-02-20."
Now why, oh why, does that somehow not surprise me?
So you can offer no rebuttal of my points other than to call it "nonsense" with no accompanying argument or justification and to point your finger at the date when I registered on this site?
My, what an intelligent fellow you are.