How free is Britain?

#1
http://www.socialaffairsunit.org.uk/blog/archives/000301.php

How free a country is Britain? That is the question Anthony Daniels raises here. He argues that it would be dangerous to make false comparisons between Britain and truly unfree societies. But nevertheless in many regards Britain is a much less free society than it was.

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?"

"Yes".

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.
 
#2
I am beginning to have my doubts about the police. Thirty years ago I would have assumed that I and everyone else would get a fair crack of the whip from them. Ten years ago I began to wonder if some other people might actually have a case against them. Today I wonder how I might fare if suspected of some petty crime - forgetting to leave my lock knife at home when I come to London, for instance.

I certainly believe the police have their own agenda and it is not a libertarian one. And that is echoed in the policies of the current government.
 
#3
yeah but didn't he play C3-PO in Star Wars ????
 
#4
I have to agree, the way things are going 1984 is yet to come. The worst thing is that all these Govt agencies are so ineffective yet at the same time imply that "we" are lazy liars.

I can't get essential equipment yet we can spend Billions on bureaucratic regulation. I don' mind spending on things we can see, but its all the "hidden costs" that pi** me off. Why did the Millenium Stadium cost 1/4 the cost of wembly for example esp as the stadiums in Japan cost even less again, answer bureaucratic regulation and profiteering.
 
#5
My wife is a teacher at our local primary school. She goes to work at 0700 each morning, has around a fifteen minute break at lunchtime and I get to see her at around 1800, when she arrives back home with a pile of marking and planning to occupy the evening.

About once every fortnight, after school, the teachers are obliged to sit through a lecture which sets out the Government's strategy, in some way, shape or form. This frequently repeats what they, the teachers, are already aware of and have been practicing or have discarded as unworkable, for the last decade or so.

Each of these lectures costs the school an average of £400.00, which comes out of the school's operating budget, and could be better spent on providing scarce teaching resources.

The 'lecturers' come courtesy of some anonymous 'advisory' agency, approved by the Department of Education...

Tony's Cronies, perhaps?
 
#6
stoatman said:
http://www.socialaffairsunit.org.uk/blog/archives/000301.php

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.
I have always wondered about these two points above.

I had a renewal for my TV licence st the end of August. Due to one thing or another - I had forgot to renew and went to do so at the beginning of November. Before I could say "its starts from September", the man at the counter wrote it out to beginning the same month we were in. Lo and behold I got a letter form TVLA saying the PO man had made an error and I will still have to renew for September as usual - fair enough but who are they to say that I was actually watching the TV or if chucked it out for the two months anyway?? (highly unlikely I know but still!).

And with the CCTV - well more so with GATSOs - it said that their purpose is to cut car accidents and speed violations, so if the increase in the amount of cameras on the road is, say, 20% from last year - how comes there isn't a 20% decrease in accidents? CCTV is only useful if the local plod is willing to contact the appropriate camera operators when a crime is committed on their patch. In my own experience, they don't. So much for using them to cut crime and get successful convictions.
 
#7
OldAdam said:
My wife is a teacher at our local primary school. She goes to work at 0700 each morning, has around fifteen minutes break at lunchtime and I get to see her at around 1800, when she arrives back home with a pile of marking and planning to occupy the evening.

About once every fortnight, after school, the teachers are obliged to sit through a lecture which sets out the Governments strategy, in some way, shape or form. This frequently repeats what they, the teachers are already aware of and have been practicing or have discarded as unworkable, for the last decade or so.

Each of these lectures costs the school an average of £400.00, which comes out of the school's operating budget, and could be better spent on providing scarce teaching resources.

The 'lecturers' come courtesy of some anonymous 'advisory' agency, approved by the Department of Education...

Tony's Cronies, perhaps?
While we, the public, remain apathetic about the infringements on our freedoms imposed by increasingly authoritarian socialist governments, we have only ourselves to blame. If every teacher in every school were to stand and question the lectureres at these sessions: "What the hell are you doing costing us valuable time and money for no quantifiable purpose?" ("...you cretinous bstard..") they'd soon get the message. But it doesn't happen. The British aren't politicised to that extent, and those who are are afraid of transgressing the Unwritten Laws of Offence.
 
#8
Whiskybreath said:
OldAdam said:
My wife is a teacher at our local primary school. She goes to work at 0700 each morning, has around fifteen minutes break at lunchtime and I get to see her at around 1800, when she arrives back home with a pile of marking and planning to occupy the evening.

About once every fortnight, after school, the teachers are obliged to sit through a lecture which sets out the Governments strategy, in some way, shape or form. This frequently repeats what they, the teachers are already aware of and have been practicing or have discarded as unworkable, for the last decade or so.

Each of these lectures costs the school an average of £400.00, which comes out of the school's operating budget, and could be better spent on providing scarce teaching resources.

The 'lecturers' come courtesy of some anonymous 'advisory' agency, approved by the Department of Education...

Tony's Cronies, perhaps?
While we, the public, remain apathetic about the infringements on our freedoms imposed by increasingly authoritarian socialist governments, we have only ourselves to blame. If every teacher in every school were to stand and question the lectureres at these sessions: "What the hell are you doing costing us valuable time and money for no quantifiable purpose?" ("...you cretinous bstard..") they'd soon get the message. But it doesn't happen. The British aren't politicised to that extent, and those who are are afraid of transgressing the Unwritten Laws of Offence.
They do challenge these impositions but the answer they get back is that they are foisted on the schools by the LEAs and they, in turn, by the Dept of Education.

As usual I expect that, at some time in the future, there will be a 'New Government Initiative' to cut out 'unnecessary waste' in schools and these lectures will be dropped.
 
#9
OldAdam said:
They do challenge these impositions but the answer they get back is that they are foisted on the schools by the LEAs and they, in turn, by the Dept of Education./quote]

Not something I would normally advocate but I think a half-day sicky on the day of political indoctrination lectures would be appropriate.
 
#10
OldAdam said:
They do challenge these impositions but the answer they get back is that they are foisted on the schools by the LEAs and they, in turn, by the Dept of Education.

As usual I expect that, at some time in the future, there will be a 'New Government Initiative' to cut out 'unnecessary waste' in schools and these lectures will be dropped.
I doubt it. Maths or engineering will go instead.
 
#11
I though about being a copper once but having seen the effort invovled in dealing with one drunken git 8 hrs plus paperwork 3 court apperances and he got a £50 fine and £50 quid compo that arrives to me by £4 cheques every few months when he is out of jail and claiming benefits('8O')
I couldn'nt cope with the shear frustration of it
 

Unknown_Quantity

War Hero
Moderator
#12
Whiskybreath said:
OldAdam said:
They do challenge these impositions but the answer they get back is that they are foisted on the schools by the LEAs and they, in turn, by the Dept of Education.

As usual I expect that, at some time in the future, there will be a 'New Government Initiative' to cut out 'unnecessary waste' in schools and these lectures will be dropped.
I doubt it. Maths or engineering will go instead.
We can only hope that maths or engineering gets dropped for something that is of benefit to us, Underwater Hotel Management maybe, or Glacial Pottery History.
 
#13
Reading the ex doc's points, the answer seems to be: er, not very free at at all. When everything is laid out in this manner it's frightening how much the world's longest functioning democracy, whose reputation for freedom is still a byword around the globe, how much of our personal freedoms have been subsumed " for the greater good". I don't think you can lay the blame for this wholly at St Tony of Freetown's door; it seems that the whole bureaucratic system is conspiring against us and has been for many years. Oh sod it, time for a large glass of port to ease the gout.
 
#14
A lot of the points raised here all stem from one source and that is ineffective Policing and handling of Justice by an ineffective Police Force and Judiciary system.

CCTV on the increase due to there not being enough Police on the beat, CCTV is used as a (very effective) augmentation to the thinly spread beat coppers.

Traffic cameras on the increase due to the lack of traffic Police.

Administration when bringing criminals to justice excessively ridiculous, therefore making the first point worse and perpetuating the need for more "none human" intervention methods.

Fear of crime on the increase due to ineffective handling of criminals, therefore justifying the need for more technological intervention as people believe that these measures will aid in combating crime.

The list could go on and on as to how and why our freedoms are being eroded but IMHO, there is one blatantly obvious answer to all of it, make the Police, the Judiciary and every other head of the supposedly "none political" bodies such as LEA's etc more effective and more accountable to the people that they serve. This would ultimately mean political change and as has been so accurately stated

While we, the public, remain apathetic about the infringements on our freedoms imposed by increasingly authoritarian socialist governments, we have only ourselves to blame. If every teacher in every school were to stand and question the lectureres at these sessions: "What the hell are you doing costing us valuable time and money for no quantifiable purpose?" ("...you cretinous bstard..") they'd soon get the message. But it doesn't happen. The British aren't politicised to that extent, and those who are are afraid of transgressing the Unwritten Laws of Offence.
We as a population only have ourselves to blame for this, we have either voted in the parties that have created the society that we live in or we have become so apathetic that we have let the changes take place around us whilst being blissfully ignorant to the erosion of our basic rights.

Long and short of it, it’s our own bloody fault.
 
#15
it would be a start to find out which knut decided brainstorm and blackboard were potentialy offensive and banned them(':twisted:').
 
#16
Aunty Stella said:
A lot of the points raised here all stem from one source and that is ineffective Policing and handling of Justice by an ineffective Police Force and Judiciary system.

CCTV on the increase due to there not being enough Police on the beat, CCTV is used as a (very effective) augmentation to the thinly spread beat coppers
As a security manager post-army service, I was target of snake-oil salesmen telling me how wonderful cctv was. I had retained a cctv tape from one of our sites where intruders came in wearing Tesco plastic bags over their heads. I used to tell the sales guys to come back when they had kit that could film through plastic. We had dummy cameras mixed with real thing where bagged heads would not be appropriate (in the buildings). Another thing is the quality of the image. The tape is used again and again and again so that even after enhancement it has little value.
 
#17
I failed my police entrance test, my parents were married.....
 
#20
OldRedCap said:
...The tape is used again and again and again so that even after enhancement it has little value.
Record to hard drive. It's for winners.
 

Similar threads


Latest Threads

Top