This post designed to annoy most of the bloggers that I agree with on most things (though, I suspect, not Pootergeek).
Like most people, I find it hard to resist the impulse to complain about ‘nannying’ or to question the predilection of most liberal democracies for banning things, but it is worth bearing in mind that – in focusing upon it – one is leaving oneself open to the charge that you are fetishising liberty and the expense of democracy. See Mr Bobbio for details*.
I dislike the smoking ban, for instance- and I say that as a recently reformed ex-smoker. And if I cared either way, I’d probably object to the hunting ban as well. But I can defend both – the former with plain reason, the latter with a defence of representative democracy (paraphrase: you have to accept the flaws in the least-worst system available to you).
Most perceived liberties fulfil the role of a constitutional safeguard (they're all unwritten here, thank da lord) – they are an exception that has been put in place to safeguard minorities. A bit like the cultural exception in other debates. They are often unwritten and cultural, and they are the hidden wiring (like public service broadcasting, and the ability of the state to invest in culture, to ride my own hobby-horses into this argument) that makes democracy better than every other system of government.
So liberties are important. But if you constantly carp on about the loss of specific liberties (hunting, smoking, putting feet on bus-seats) without – at the same time – acknowledging the fact that technology, secularism and globalisaton provide us with many new liberties as well as relatively small restrictions, then you are – objectively – a conservative.
Most of us enjoy many many more liberties now than we did, say, twenty years ago. To think otherwise is to either be looking at the world through a glass darkly, or to be a conservative propagandist.
So, reader, which one are you?
*apologies for sending you off to read a book in order to reinforce an argument. Pressure of time, and all that. It is a very good book though.