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Sunday, 3 February 2013

Gay marriage: Freedom -v- "Rights"

Tim Montgomerie seems to think that Tory Party members should ditch all principles and long-held beliefs, just to prevent Cameron's disastrous government from imploding - much like saving the Euro is all about preventing the EU from imploding.

Tim thinks that the old codgers who put principle before party should just bend over and take it.  He completely ignores the effect that gay marriage would have on our constitution - and, more importantly, our liberties.

As Allectus eloquently opines:
"Nobody has an automatic right to "respect" - let alone "equal respect" - for their lifestyle or opinions, or not to be "offended" by those of others. It is absurd for person A to claim a right not be "offended" by person B's beliefs or opinions, if only because person B is likely to be equally offended by the opinions and beliefs of person A. The only way to resolve this kind of conflict between competing rights is to elevate one of these persons into some kind of privileged position over the other. This designation of "privileged" status not only violates the principle of equality before the law, but involves the state assuming the role of infallible arbiter of whose beliefs are the more fundamental or valuable.

There should always be a presumption that the exercise of a personal freedom is "right". Where there is a compelling case for a freedom to be restricted, suspended or abrogated, this should always be effected proportionately - that is to say, by doing the minimum harm to more general rights and freedoms consistent with remedying the particular evil it is considered desirable to address. This has not been the approach of our so-called "anti-discrimination" laws.

Time and again, history has shown us that "equality" - when viewed as an end state, rather than as equality before the law - is fundamentally incompatible with freedom. Our anti-discrimination legislation does not deliver equality before the law, but attempts to impose a desired end state (equality at any price) through state coercion. It can do so only by elevating the beliefs, values and interests of certain privileged social groups - such as gays, faith groups and ethnic minorities - above those of others.

When the dysfunctional institutions created and sustained by those laws enjoy, as they do, a more or less open mandate and an unfettered discretion to pursue a goal which is not only unachievable, but incapable of objective definition, this is an infinitely greater threat to freedom than the "tyranny of the majority". That is why the remit of the state in such matters should be limited to ensuring access (although not necessarily equality of access) to basic goods and services and employment opportunities for minorities. Anything more is a disproportionate assault on the freedom of the majority to live their own lives as they please.

It is not for the state to confer or withhold "respect" from particular social groups; this is the prerogative of individuals, exercising their freedoms of conscience, expression and association. When the state steps in to tell people what to think, or what they can or cannot say (except in certain specific and clearly defined contexts - defamation, incitement, genuine harassment, criminal conspiracy, intellectual property or official secrets, etc.), there is an unacceptable risk of abuse of state power. Moreover, there can be no clearly defined limits to what constitutes "equal respect", so organs of the state - egged on by special interest groups, eager to increase their own influence - will always seek to expand their role.

In a free society it is inevitable that we should encounter opinions or attitudes with which we not only disagree, but which actually cause us pain or offence. These opinions or attitudes might simply be the result of ignorance, or a lack of, or lapse in, sympathetic understanding; or they may be motivated by malice simpliciter. There is normally an appropriate response to each of these cases which does not entail state censorship or coercion. State intervention should therefore be a last resort in extreme cases, not the default response.

In any case, anti-discrimination laws seldom seem to be used against privileged groups or an intolerant majority; indeed, they are typically employed against unpopular minority groups which do not enjoy privileged status under the law. Take the case of Michael Coleman, the BNP member.

How can we pretend to ourselves that we live in a free society where Coleman could be given a suspended prison sentence simply for exercising his freedom of expression? His supposed crime was "racial harassment"; but it is difficult to see how anybody could feel "harassed" by a rant on a website that they are under no obligation to visit. Not quite the same thing as being repeatedly followed down the street by a gang of thugs making monkey noises, is it? It seems to me that Coleman was the one being harassed here, and that organs of the state, generously funded by the taxpayer, were doing the harassment. The same might be said for the Christian B&B owners persecuted for declining to accommodate the gay couple.

So "equal respect" is a myth; it's just a smokescreen to allow the state to elevate the values and beliefs of some privileged social groups above those of others.

And why should private members clubs or political parties be prevented from excluding from their memberships whomever they wish, and on whatever grounds they choose (including those of race, religion, class, gender or sexual orientation)? This is a direct attack on their (and our) fundamental right of freedom of association.

And what about the rights of the proprietors of small owner-managed businesses to refuse the custom of certain social groups, where they perceive that this might contravene, say, their religious beliefs? If you can't run your own business in accordance with your conscience, then what else can you do?

Employees of large companies and public bodies are all required to sign up to "equality" and "respect" agendas regardless of their personal convictions, and in some cases (e.g. the police), their political beliefs or affiliations might actually exclude them from employment altogether. So it would seem that the freedom of people to "live the life they choose" belongs only to certain privileged groups.

Extending freedom of conscience and association to private members clubs and small owner-managed businesses would clearly not deprive minorities of necessary facilities and opportunities - therefore continuing to deprive them of those freedoms is disproportionate and an abuse of state power.

The Conservative Party is supposed to champion individual freedom. So why isn't it making these points, rather than tinkering with a few details of oppressive PC legislation? Personal liberty should be fundamental to any free society: it shouldn't be defined by what's left over after squabbling special interest groups have extracted every ounce of privilege and "respect" they imagine they're entitled to."

5 comments:

hedgehog said...

What a marvellous - and quite rare - example of real, joined-up thinking.

I agree withg every word Allectus has to say; thank you for bringing it to my attention via your blog.

Fausty said...

I agree, hedgehog. So many good posts like his are lost in the tide of comments on blogs. When I see a great one, I like to give it space.

NewsboyCap said...

Fausty

Agreed, and if you don't mind I shall 'borrow' this wonderful post as a point for discussion at the Bolton Freedom Advocates.
Thanks also to Allectus.

Fausty said...

The wider read it is, the better, I think - and Allectus hasn't minded my nicking it, so I doubt he'll mind you doing likewise, NewsboyCap.

ukgoldbug said...

The Conservative party has been taken over by socialists. Dave is nowhere near being a Conservative, he has far more in common with Blair than Thatcher. That's why we have oppressive PC nanny state policies. This country just isn't ready to give up it's obsession with lefty ideas so we end up with Dave and co in charge.

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