Thursday, 1 June 2017

The Rules-Freedom Symbiosis

For too long the rant against rules as barriers to ‘Freedom’ has gone unchallenged. Playing on people’s instinctive yearning to be free from restrictions, charlatans have manipulated public opinion and turned it against rule-setting in any arena that might have obstructed the pursuit of their own vested interests.

We hear of the ‘free’ market being held back by business legislation; the ‘freedom’ of the press being threatened by proposed regulation; or our country’s ‘liberty’ being constrained by rules imposed by the European Union.

But imagine a world without rules – people can cheat, rob, maim you and your family without any penalty. You have no safety, no prospect of building on anything because the unscrupulous can come along any time and wreck your life.

To be free to live a life without constant fear, we need rules to protect us. And to make sure those rules are appropriate, we need to be the ones in control of how those rules are set. Rules are not the enemy of freedom. The eradication of rules so the callous can trample on the rest, or the imposition of unfair rules that ignores our concerns, they are the nemesis of our liberty.

If we are to enable the Rules-Freedom symbiosis to flourish, we must be better aware of what kind of activities may affect us, what rules are necessary to safeguard our wellbeing from infringement by others, and above all, how we can have a reasonable say in the formulation and enforcement of those rules.

Activities by business organisations and other European countries are two major types of activity that can substantially impact on our lives. Even self-styled libertarians would concede that having no rules to govern these activities would open us up to deception, exploitation, and even enslavement by ruthless transgressors [Note 1]. Not surprisingly, there are rules put in place to deal with them. Unfortunately, many of these rules are being altered by plutocratic politicians doing the bidding of irresponsible corporations, or removed altogether at the expense of ordinary citizens. Worse still, those of us in the UK are being pulled out of the EU where cross-border rules are set. There will still be countless trade, scientific, and security activities that affect the UK and the rest of Europe alike, but the UK will no longer have any representation at the table where the rules governing these activities are drawn up.

Getting rid of rules, or giving up the opportunity to shape them, is not the way to secure freedom. Often such a move will only lead us to greater vulnerabilities, and we become much less free as a result of others not being constrained anymore from depleting our options in life. If we truly want to be free, we had better start engaging fully in the vital process of rule-setting at the national, European, and indeed global level.

Note 1: Human trafficking and modern slavery are real problems that are still not sufficiently prioritised for government counter-action.

1 comment:

Woodman59 said...

Such an important discussion to have. Without a strong framework the body collapses...has no potential to achieve anything.