Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Those who forget their history, etc.

Tony Blair’s recent assaults on our civil liberties have finally got me reading a bit of political philosophy again. To wit, some pertinent quotes from John Stuart Mill:

On Liberty, Ch.II – “Let us suppose… that the government is entirely at one with the people, and never thinks of exerting any power of coercion unless in agreement with what it conceives to be their voice. But I deny the right of the people to excercise such coercion, either by themselves or by their government. The power itself is illegitimate. The best government has no more title to it than the worst. It is as noxious, or more noxious, when exerted in accordance with public opinion, than when in opposition to it.”

On Liberty, Ch.IV – “there are, in our own day, gross usurpations upon the liberty of private life actually practised, and still greater ones threatened with some expectation of success, and opinions propounded which assert an unlimited right in the public not only to prohibit by law everything which it thinks wrong, but in order to get at what it thinks wrong, to prohibit any number of things which it admits to be innocent…

“A theory of ‘social rights’ the like of which probably never before found its way into direct language: being nothing short of this – that it is the absolute social right of every individual, that every individual shall act in every respect exactly as he ought; that whosoever fails thereof in the smallest particular, violates my social right, and entitles me to demand from the legislature the removal of the grievance. So monstrous a principle is far more dangerous than any single interference with liberty; there is no violation of liberty it would not justify; it acknowledges no right to any freedom whatever, except perhaps that of holding opinions in secret, without ever disclosing them: for, the moment an opinion which I consider noxious passes any one’s lips, it invades all the ‘social rights’ attributed to me by the Alliance.”

Locke, Mill and Paine should be the major sources for anyone wishing to find eloquent expressions of precisely why what Blair is doing is wrong. Possibly even Burke:

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little”

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle”


“The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients, and by parts”

(Initially posted as a comment over at Great Britain, Not Little England, where MatGB is pondering how to organise the resistance.)