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A bonfire of unnecessary laws

Posted by Richard on May 20, 2010

Radley Balko has begun to "warm up to this Nick Clegg chap," and I can see why. Clegg is Deputy Prime Minister in the coalition government that the Conservatives formed with Clegg's Liberal Democrats, and he's promising "ambitious and radical" political reforms that aim to empower individuals and reduce the power and scope of government. I like most of the bullet list, but like Balko, my favorite is "a bonfire of unnecessary laws." 

It's all just talk so far, but it's encouraging talk (emphasis added): 

In an attempt to reassure Liberal Democrat members and supporters who doubt the wisdom of joining forces with the Conservatives, he will promise: "This will be a government that is proud when British citizens stand up against illegitimate advances of the state. That values debate, that is unafraid of dissent."

He will announce plans to consult the public on which laws should be scrapped. Promising to "tear through the statute book", he will attack Labour for creating thousands of criminal offences which took away people's freedom without making the streets safe.

"Obsessive lawmaking simply makes criminals out of ordinary people. So we'll get rid of the unnecessary laws and once they're gone, they won't come back. We will introduce a mechanism to block pointless new criminal offences," he will say.

"This government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state. This government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to people, because that is how we build a society that is fair. This government is going to persuade you to put your faith in politics once again."

Mr Clegg endorsed David Cameron's flagship "big society" theme, which the Tory leader contrasts with the "big government" offered by Labour during its 13 years in power. In a U-turn, the Liberal Democrat leader told a Downing Street seminar for voluntary groups he hosted with the Prime Minister: "What I'm discovering is we've been using different words for a long time – it actually means the same thing. Liberalism, big society. Empowerment, responsibility. It means the same thing."

That sounds pretty good to my libertarian ears. It's just a hope at this point, but maybe — just maybe — Britain's messy election will lead to something really positive for that nation.

Maybe some British liberals are ready to re-embrace their roots as advocates of freedom, democracy, and civil liberties, instead of focusing on egalitarianism, regulation, and "positive rights." And maybe some British conservatives are returning to their traditional commitment to individual liberty and distrust of overarching government, instead of … well, whatever you call the inchoate policy porridge that's characterized them since the end of Thatcherism. 

Maybe this coalition government is an opportunity for a realignment in British politics, the creation of a real, lasting coalition of those across the political spectrum who've recognized the limits — and dangers — of government power. Something akin to a tea party movement. Wouldn't it be appropriate for the Brits to have something akin to a tea party? Eh, wot?

One can hope.

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