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A new era of liberty?

Does today’s backlash against the ‘nanny state’ signal a new era of liberty?

In July, the new coalition government launched a consultation to remove laws that fetter our freedom, explaining that, ‘For too long new laws have taken away your freedom, interfered in everyday life and made it difficult for businesses to get on. We want your ideas on how to change that, ideas on how we restore hard-won freedoms that have been lost’. Did Nick Clegg’s call for people to suggest illiberal or coercive laws they want to abolish mark the beginning of a new era of liberty? The idea seems promising, but is it just an empty gesture, another ‘listening campaign’ to make us feel good? Are we being presented with freedom as soundbite rather than a real debate about the issues?

In today’s cautious and conservative political climate, the foundational freedoms - freedom of speech, freedom to organise and the negative liberty of not having the state intruding into our private lives - are less likely to be supported and are rarely fought for. Is it merely cynical to suppose that the freedom to sack employees is more likely to come out any consultation than the freedom to say what you like? The idea of consultation continues a political tradition of the elite conferring rights rather than the public seeing freedom as being something we have to fight for. Indeed, it sometimes seems most people are not that interested in freedom. The last government’s efforts to deal with ‘antisocial behaviour’ were popular despite their illiberalism. If people value security above all else, freedom is unlikely to become a truly popular cause. So is freedom just a matter of governments removing laws that restrict freedoms or enacting laws that protect freedom? Don’t we need a real campaign over what matters rather than passively filling in consultation forms on a website?

Does today’s backlash against the ‘nanny state’ signal a new era of liberty? Or will campaigners have to go further, and understand the roots of the last government’s illiberalism, in order to hold this and future governments to account?


Guy Aitchison | talks
Professor Dennis Hayes | talks | www
Guy Herbert | talks
James Panton | talks
Brian Winston | talks | www
Rania Hafez | talks


Date and Time:

12 October 2010 at 6:30 pm


2 hours 30 minutes



Hallmark Hotel
Midland Road

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Organised by:

Institute of Ideas
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£7.50 (£5 concessions)

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