On the edition I have of Leviathan by Hobbes there is the image of a giant, the Leviathan, made up of many people. This giant wears a crown and represents the necessity of monarchy to direct the mass of the people. Hobbes’ view of people, however accurate for the time, was not charitable. He considered them and their lives to be “nasty, brutish and short”, needing the guiding light of the monarchy to steer them from abject stupidity and misery.
The Leviathan is a powerful image, capturing the might of a nation of people united under a common purpose. The crown however, is no longer the right icon, with the monarchy having only a shadow of their former power and the executive having taken their place. Another thing that has changed in this country is that the lives of the people are no long nasty, brutish and short. We may lament the standards of education and that there are still people “under the poverty line” but both these things must be seen in relative terms. Life expectancy has never been higher, we are richer than ever before, anyone who wants an education has the opportunity to have it and most have done so. Even the poverty line is ridiculous, being defined not as being poor but as having less than others. No one has to starve to death in
Today people are in a better position to look after themselves than ever before so why do we suffer under more and more government? Why do we ignore politics and let voting turn out slip lower and lower each election?
There are conflicting reasons for this. One of the side effects of an education in the working of democracy is that you learn how little your vote counts in a country of 60 million. Another reason is that because we are better able to deal with things ourselves there is less motivation to get involved in group. The other side of the problem is that any apparatus of power will tend to try to extend its competencies further. We can see this clearly with the EU, once simply a free trading block and a way for the Germans to make reparations to the French, the EU has branched out, taking control of aspects of our lives that we never envisioned. When the referendum on joining was made I doubt even the most radical sceptic thought that the EU would ban smoking and Routmaster buses. It wasn’t simply the power needed to do that, it was the fact that there was no good reason for the EU to have an interest in those areas.
This is not just a problem with the EU, any power structure will try to expand, as our own government has done. Petty rules are created to keep us safe that end up treating us like children and taking away the responsibilities that should be ours. We have allowed this to happen because we barely noticed each little salami slice of our freedom taken away. In a cry for something to done about the latest crisis, each time we have thought, “Well it’s only a tiny bit of freedom that I’m giving up, it doesn’t matter there’s plenty left.”. This is tragic because bit by bit we have lost it. Few have even noticed and it’s shameful because never before have we been more able to govern ourselves.
The struggle to take back what we have lost has begun though. The internet has allowed those with a common interest in fighting back a fantastic means of communication. Those who have the slightest interest now know each time another freedom is reduced or removed and their anger is starting to spill out into the world at large. One of the most encouraging changes that I have seen in a long time was the incredulous reception the MSM, (including the BBC!), gave to today’s announcement that smoking in cars was evil, wrong and to a certain extent illegal, (it is not actually banned but if you have an accident it will fall under “lack of due care and attention”).
It may sound desperate to be so pleased over a change in attitude over such a silly policy but it is a start. Our freedoms were taken away with salami tactics, maybe we can start to take them back the same way. What I hope for is that soon the Leviathan will wake and see how little government it needs.