Arriving back at Heathrow late on Sunday night I felt – as you do on returning to Britain these days – as if I were entering a failed state. It’s not just the Third World shabbiness which is so dispiriting. It’s the knowledge that from its surveillance cameras to its tax regime, from its (mostly) EU-inspired regulations to its whole attitude to the role of government, Britain is a country which has forgotten what it means to be free.
God how I wish I were American right now. In the US they may not have the Cairngorms, the River Wye, cream teas, University Challenge, Cotswold villages or decent curries. But they do still understand the principles of “don’t tread on me” and “live free or die.” Not all of them, obviously – otherwise a socialist like Barack Obama would never have got into power. But enough of them to understand that in the last 80 or more years – and not just in the US but throughout the Western world – government has forgotten its purpose. It has now grown so arrogant and swollen as to believe its job is to shape and improve and generally interfere with our lives. And it’s not. Government’s job is to act as our humble servant.
What’s terrifying is how few of us there are left anywhere in the supposedly free world who properly appreciate this. Sure, we may feel in our hearts that – as Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe put it in their Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party manifesto – “We just want to be free. Free to lead our lives as we please, so long as we do not infringe on the same freedom of others”. And we may even confide it to our friends after a few drinks. But look at Australia; look at Canada; look at New Zealand; look at anywhere in the EUSSR; look at America – at least until things begin to be improved by today’s glorious revolution. Wherever you go, even if it’s somewhere run by a notionally “conservative” administration, the malaise you will encounter is much the same: a system of governance predicated on the notion that the state’s function is not merely to uphold property rights, maintain equality before the law and defend borders, but perpetually to meddle with its citizens’ lives in order supposedly to make their existence more fair, more safe, more eco-friendly, more healthy. And always the result is the same: more taxation, more regulation, less freedom. Less “fairness” too, of course.