It seems England leads the way in how a democratic society can abandon its ideals with amazing speed and incredible apathy.
Johnston invites us all to think again:
It is said, though less often now than it used to be, that the basis of English liberty is the rule of law, under which everything is allowed unless specifically prohibited. According to A.V. Dicey, the 19th-century constitutionalist, this was one of the features that distinguished England from its continental counterparts, where people were subject to the exercise of arbitrary power and were actions that where not specifically authorised were proscribed.
Effectively, this principle limited the scope of the State to intervene in people’s lives. Law set the boundaries of personal action but did not dictate the course of such action. Some limitations on personal freedom are introduced ostensibly for our own good and some, obviously, predate the Blair Government, such as the compulsory wearing of seat belts in cars and a requirement to wear a crash helmet on a motorbike; but, since 1997, the pace of proscription has grown alarmingly, encompassing smacking to smoking.
Another aspect of liberty is privacy. It may be hard to believe in a world where people crave televised notoriety that there are still many who cherish anonymity. In a truly free society it should be possible for someone who does not wish to come to the attention of the state to remain unnoticed provided he breaks no laws. As A. J. P. Taylor observed, before the First World War the average citizen’s interaction with the Government was largely limited to paying tax.
“He could live where he liked and as he liked,” the great historian wrote. “He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission.”
Of one thing he could be certain and that was the inviolability of his home. But recent research has uncovered 266 separate powers under which the police and other state agents can enter your home, often using force to do so.
The proliferation of state databases, again very much a recent development, has also rendered the concept of the private individual a thing of the past, and from the earliest age. We are, almost without realising it, becoming the most snooped-on democratic nation on earth, electronically tracked from cot to coffin, our most personal details to be stored for ever, all in the name of modernisation, efficiency and, we are told, our own good.
There's a lot more in Johnston's article, and I hope Americans will read it thoughtfully.
With my own party of self-proclaimed "conservatives" quickly following Britain's model, we should also be asking the same question Johnston is asking.