So, Nosemonkey sees the EU as a check upon the power of our own government. The trouble is, as I pointed out, what is the check on the power of the equally corrupt EU? "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?", if you like. The answer is, of course, that there is none.
The other objection that I raised was that I had no wish to subsume our Common Law—under which, to define it very simplistically, everything is legal unless specifically proscribed—to the European Roman Law (under which, roughly speaking, everything is illegal unless specifically prescribed). Young Master Nosemonkey's reply once more contained the phrase "human rights".
The fact is that I partially agree with him: our governments are corrupt (which is why, of course, I favour as small a government as possible). However, I believe that the concept of "human rights" is actually a symbol of that corruption, not a brake upon it.
And this excellent post by Bishop Hill, using the current offensive against Home Education, illustrates just why that is the case.
I've been wondering about the distinction between human rights and liberties for some time now and in recent weeks have come to the conclusion that a human right essentially defines an entitlement and therefore a duty on government (and perhaps on others), while a liberty defines a restriction on government (and perhaps on others). I've also concluded that human rights are potentially disastrous.
Here's an example of why.
Lanna's a home educator, and as I've commented previously, there is an ongoing campaign against HE by the government. They have instituted a review of the whole area - the fourth in three years IIRC - and this appears to have been preordained to conclude that there is a need for home inpections by state-approved monitors. Once in place, this will no doubt lead in time to the outlawing of HE. By way of a softening-up exercise, the government has arranged for its client charity, the NSPCC, to make vague insinuations of child abuse in the direction of home educators, which Lanna reckons is a fairly obvious attempt to stigmatise the whole community before regulating and legislating against them. It certainly looks very much like the similar treatment dished out to smokers and foxhunters in the past and so I think she may well be right.
So what has this got to do with human rights? Well, from the HE perspective, how come then the state can demand entry to your home? How come they can force your children to talk to them? How come they can demand that you not be present? Haven't you got a right to privacy? The right to a family life? You would hope, wouldn't you that your human rights would protect you against this sort of thing. But you'd be wrong. The government will argue that the mere possibility of the loss of the child's rights justifies the loss of parental rights to privacy.
And this is the problem with human rights. By creating entitlements, but no understanding of how to balance different people's entitlements off against each other, they create confusion and sow discord and eventually leave the field of debate entirely empty, ready for government to legislate as they wish.
In this case the government has decided that the parent's rights are secondary. (This rather conveniently coincides with their own prejudices and the needs of their financial backers in the trades unions and the educational establishment, who of course want to stop state schools from haemorraging pupils.) But it is clear that they could just as easily have referred to the right to privacy of the parents and decided something completely different. The same set of human rights can give entirely different outcomes depending on who happens to be in power at the time and the whims of whoever is funding them.
Human rights give governments the power to do what they want.
It is this balancing—or, rather, lack of it—that many of us have been railing about for years. Unlike Nosemonkey, I view NuLabour's signing of the Human Rights Act as a menace, not a virtue. Quite apart from the example given above, and quite apart from my personal sense of revulsion that we would need to enshrine in law such fundamental things in order to protect us from our government, there is the practical aspect of looking at the past record of those who signed this act—the NuLabour government.
No peacetime government has ever trampled all over our liberties as much as this government: not one. Our Parliament's power sidelined and debased, and we are constantly spied upon, logged in and out of the country, tagged, locked up for weeks without trial, and generally degraded in hundreds of thousands of smaller ways. Does it seem credible that such a government would sign up to an Act that would constrain their actions and make the citizens freer? It does not.
And so, did the Human Rights Act stop any of these abuses? With the possible exception of one example—the DNA retention of innocent people (and the Act still does not guarantee that the police will destroy those records and, since it is contrary to sate policy, the government has no motive to enforce it)—the answer is a resounding "no".
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) was meant to put a brake on the abuse of technologies by various government bodies—instead, it has simply codified the usage of these powers and, as we know from the constant stories, the abuse continues. The original intention of the Act has been subverted and perverted and used for the state's own purposes: instead of protecting the citizens of this country, for which purpose it has proved utterly useless, it has merely given the state sanction to spy on us for its own purposes.
The Human Rights Act is exactly the same: it is utterly useless for protecting our freedoms, and instead gives the state legal and, by our rulers' lights, moral sanction to invade our homes and our privacy.
What we used to have was liberties: and how might they work in our Home Education example?
So how would it work with a liberties-based approach? The first thing to notice is that a liberty doesn't say anything about any individual's entitlements. But by defining what government may not do, the definition of a liberty implies how the rights of the individuals are to be balanced, and moreover, it implies them in a way that makes the outcome completely clear: there is only one possible conclusion that can be drawn.
For our HE example, the US Fourth Amendment (this is clearer for explaining the principles) simply says that the government may not enter the home without reasonable suspicion and a warrant. While this doesn't actually seem to address the question at hand—of how to balance the rights/needs/entitlements of parent and child, these things all flow naturally from the elucidation of the liberty. The rights of the child do receive appropriate protection ("if there's reasonable suspicion, we'll come and check things out") as do those of the parents ("we'll leave you alone unless there's reasonable suspicion").
Liberty works. It has worked for hundreds of years when it has been given the chance. Human rights don't. They never have.
And that is why the Human Rights Act is not—and has never been—welcomed by those of us who believe in freedom. That is why those of us who believe in liberty do not chalk it up as a point in NuLabour's favour. And that is why the EU's Roman-style Law is absolutely abhorred by those of us who wish to be free.
Collusion between our government and the EU has removed our fundamental liberty and replaced it with an ersatz concept of "rights" which, far from freeing us further, has instead given them sanction to snoop and pry and interfere in our lives like never before.
And, frankly, it is strange to hear an intelligent man like Nosemonkey—a man who rightly railed against the disgustingly illiberal measures aimed at Muslims on the grounds that being able to walk down the street without fear of being blown up is the most fundamental human right, trumping all others, as the government put it—embracing that same concept as a positive thing. It is strange to see such a man hailing these "rights"—that allow the state ever more licence to enslave and imprison us—as the saviour of our freedoms.
In short, I think that Nosemonkey is wrong and Bishop Hill is correct.