Thursday, June 12, 2008


Willem Buiter on the new UK police state.
The UK’s gutless House of Commons has just consented to the most serious assault on a free society and on our essential liberties this country has seen for at least a century. It will now be possible for persons suspected of terrorist crimes to be detained without being charged for up to 42 days. This is a major step on the road to a police state in the UK - a horrifying encroachment on human rights. If the government believe there is a war on, let them declare a state of emergency and assume emergency powers. This introduction of state-of-emergency-instruments and powers during ‘normal’ times, is a constitutional outrage.

If you do not have sufficient evidence to charge a person with a crime, you should not detain him or her. That defines the rule of law and a free society. That principle is more precious than life itself, because without it the power of the state becomes unbridled and can roll over any individual. The preservation of the safety and security of the citizens is not the primary duty of the state. The preservation of their essential rights and liberties is. Because the world is an imperfect place, one could perhaps condone this kind of preventive detention for a couple of days. But even that should be subject to strict safeguards.
The 20th century has so twisted our idea of the purpose of government that we now believe that we have a government in order to have economic growth, or public safety, or redistribution, or just about anything except the one true reason to have a government -- to have the FREEDOM to enter into relations of VOLUNTARY mutual benefit. We have governments in order to be free. If you can be told what to eat, smoke, or buy ... if you can be forced to work continually hunched over in a field picking cotton ... if you can be thrown in jail at any time for literally nothing ... You. Are. Not. Free. You need a government. Not ours of course.

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