I\’m not in fact sure whether this David Selbourne fella is being serious or not.
Instead, modern free societies, the freest history has known, are gradually disintegrating from abuse of their freedoms. The harms being done to them by exploitation of their liberties are real; the harms being caused to them by the erosion of those liberties are largely imaginary.
It is here too that most of the left, whose socialist ideals have largely been displaced by an open-ended libertarianism, should take care. For the vacuous notion of liberty they now espouse is really a claim to the right to do as one pleases. This is the same idea about liberty as the "free marketeer" who brooks no interference with "choice", even if it wrecks society and the planet.
Liberty is indeed defined as the right to do as one pleases: as long as you are not harming others or restricting their rights to also find their own path from here to the grave. It\’s a very simple concept.
To expect the fulfilment by the citizen of his or her duties is no impertinence. It is essential to liberal democracy. Indeed, government ministers today speak hesitantly of a need for "constitutional renewal" or for a more "contractual" relationship between citizen and state. Under it, the performance of civic duties would be made a condition for the gaining of rights, many of the latter now routinely and shamelessly exploited by rich and poor alike.
So simple a concept that Selbourne doesn\’t in fact understand it. He prefers rather a feudal construction of the State. Yes, My Lord will indeed provide justice for me, but at a price: that I farm his desmense for him. Yes, My Lord will indeed defend me from foreigners, but at the expense of my fighting for him against the next Baron over. My Lord will indeed defend my rights to the common land: at the expense of his taking a tallage and a scutage of my production and of my belongings at my death.
We lived that way for some centuries, us Brits and English. And our ancestors decided, in their wisdom, that this wasn\’t the way that free men live. So they constructed a system of rights: these are not things which the State grants in return for duties to it, they are things which each and every man has as a simple corollary of being human. It took some centuries to build this system, to be sure, and no one would try to suggest that at any point along that long path that it has been perfect.
But to give up on that experiment? That noble journey towards that very freedom and liberty decried above? My right, as yours, to tread the path through this one time experience of life as I choose and not as is chosen for me, as long as I do not infringe upon the similar rights of others to do the same?
To return to a feudal system in which I owe duties to My Noble Lords in return for whatever rights they might see fit to grant me?
Fuck that quite frankly.