Merry Old England, once the birthplace of some of the greatest political philosophers of the Enlightenment Period, now finds itself sliding uncontrollably down the path of authoritarianism, with no end in sight. More disturbingly, it seems to be unable to even realize the dangers that it so willingly throws itself into. Unfortunately, this pattern cannot even be narrowed down to the government denying the people their natural right to self-defense. Or the drastic encroachments on free speech. Or that of denying the people a right to a substantial sum of the earnings of their own labor. No, it seems that the British government will not be sated until it gobbles up all individual liberties across the board at once, rather than at least one sensible nibble at a time, like its American cousin.
Of course, the history of this slide into authoritarianism is long and storied. Even F.A. Hayek himself predicted much of it, though perhaps not at the lengths that we now see today. Of course, the foundation was laid at the same time as the unification of England as a nation. Since the beginning, Englanders have been known as “subjects”, not “citizens”. This is an incredibly important distinction. Subjects have no inherent rights outside of what the government deems is necessary. For all intents and purposes, they are owned and controlled by their own government. Citizens, on the other hand, have recognized and inherent rights, and power of their own including against their own government.
But this slide into abject authoritarianism started out slow, as most slides do. It started with exorbitant taxes to pay for one thing or another: for wars in the Empire, to battle foreign aggression, or to pay for the next royal wedding or christening. Soon, however, it became about things much closer to home, and nearer to the front doors of the common Englishman. Perhaps the most devious part of these steps was that they were covered in a thin veneer of the public good. They included the mass disarmament of the country, depriving the individual of a means of personal defense, or the nationalization of the healthcare system, depriving the individual of their ability to choose their healthcare and extracting an even larger portion of the fruits of their labor.
This slide has only continued to pick up speed, becoming brasher as the momentum builds. In the last year alone, the British courts have stripped two sets of parents of their rights over their infant children. Both cases resulted in the deaths of the infants, despite further medical treatment being made available in other countries, and at no additional cost to the Crown. The British courts have made it clear that even parents do not have the right to dictate what is best for their children if the British government decides it knows better. Even an individual’s social media isn’t safe. Current UK law forbids the use of social media to speak of anything that is deemed offensive by the current government, complete with teams of law enforcement personnel scouring social media accounts for infractions. The latest nail in the coffin, of course, has been the fallacious arrest and kangaroo court sentencing of Tommy Robinson, a right-wing activist, and journalist.
The question that must be asked then, is whether England can pull itself out of this authoritarian death spiral that it finds itself in. Is it too late for England? Can it now only serve as the proverbial canary in the coal mine for the remainder of the free world? Or can its people regain a measure of their prior stoic, stiff upper lip, and pull themselves up by their bootstraps to enable themselves to make their own way in Liberty, instead of being smothered by the false promises and outright power grabs of government? As usual, time itself will be the only way to tell. But in either event, it is a dark time for Liberty in the very place in which it was born.
You can read more from William Gadsden here.