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Hypocrisy kills (democratic) governments

The following is a guest post by Tony Brown. Tony was a Political Adviser to the former Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy and its predecessor, Europe of Freedom and Democracy. 

Experimental psychologists have conducted experiments to test whether toddlers have a sense of 'fairness'. Google the topic and you will find that children as young as 3 do. Moreover, fairness is not about equal outcomes but about equal opportunity and mutual respect. From very early years, children are aware of what is fair and what is not, suggesting it is, to some extent at least, innate - presumably a useful survival mechanism.

Historically, this has been a powerful force in history: people want to see an equal tax burden, not some, usually the poor, bearing a heavy burden whilst others - the elite or aristocracy - escape having to pay. This was a key issue in the French Revolution. The abolition of serfdom was driven by the fact that it was unfair, some were free to travel and had no labour service to perform whilst others were tied to the land labouring for their lord.  

It is a central dynamic of English history.  The Magna Carta addresses the issue of equality before the law; all must be equally subject to it. Over 400 years later, the King being subject to the law and the right of Parliament to decide the level of taxation are issues in the English Civil War. This marks an important divide in the English and French traditions: as Louis XIV imposes ever more absolute power in France, in England the Glorious Revolution and the Hanoverian Succession are both focussed on the rule not of a monarch but of law.

The question of both the Chartists and the anti-slavers has the same focus: 'When Adam delved and Eve span who was then the Gentleman?' Governments undermine all being equal before the law at their peril!

The tougher the circumstances of a people and a country the more fairness matters which is why wartime rationing is introduced, and conscription and quarantine must apply to all equally.

Boris is supposedly one of our more historically educated and aware Prime Ministers. Yet would you know it?

His government has arguably undermined equality before the law.  Declaring that some - footballers, their officials and business people at big companies - do not have to comply with quarantine regulations creates a privileged class. To be perceived as justified and fair, regulations must apply equally to all.  This is not a trivial issue. It goes right to the heart of what every toddler knows long before they can articulate it.

Moreover, Boris has allowed his government to be perceived as having one rule for us and another for them: Cummings travelling to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight, Ferguson breaking lockdown to visit his mistress, Hancock canoodling with his lover in defiance of isolation requirements.... Labour won Batley and Spen by a narrow 323 votes and it may have been lost by the Tories simply because Hancock was a hypocrite who tried to cling on. 

One of the reasons I am a libertarian who believes in low taxation, minimal regulation and wishes absolutely to maximise individual freedom and choice is because I also believe that all must be subject to the law - including myself.  I want easily obeyed, light laws for myself so I must want them for all. The more onerous and vexatious you make it for people to obey the law, the more likely they are to break it - often accidentally if it is complex and opaque enough - the more resentful they will feel.

But the absolutely worst things a government can do is to grant privileges to one group which are not enjoyed by others and for the elite to think themselves exempt from the restrictions which apply to everybody else.

I had hoped Boris was a PM who would learn from the lessons of history. Sadly, I fear I was wrong - and Batley and Spen may be the harbinger of what will eventually destroy him!    


All views expressed in contributions by named authors are their own and may not reflect the views of The Freedom Association.

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