Libertarian Alliance Statement on a Proposed Bill of Rights for Britain, 12th August 2008
NEWS RELEASE FROM THE LIBERTARIAN ALLIANCE
In Association with the Libertarian International
Release Date: Tuesday 12th August 2008
Release Time: Immediate
Dr Sean Gabb on 07956 472 199 or via firstname.lastname@example.org
STATEMENT BY THE LIBERTARIAN ALLIANCE ON A PROPOSED NEW "BILL OF RIGHTS" FOR BRITAIN
The Libertarian Alliance, the radical free market and civil liberties policy institute, today issues the following statement on the legitimacy of the proposed new "Bill of Rights" for Britain.
[Note: The British Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights has called for a new Bill of Rights, to supplement or replace the Human Rights Act 1998. This new Bill would contain social and economic "rights", including the "right" to health, housing, education and an adequate standard of living, as well as a "healthy" environment. It would also contain such "rights" as international human rights treaties may in future decide.]
Libertarian Alliance Director, Dr Sean Gabb, says:
"The most fundamental right within the western liberal tradition is the right of individuals to be left alone in the enjoyment of life, liberty and justly-acquired property. The most fundamental obligation is to leave others alone in their enjoyment of the same.
"The sole function of a bill of rights is to protect this fundamental right from violation by the State, which in every time and place has been the foremost threat to life, liberty and property. Therefore, bills of rights have generally enumerated aspects of the right to be left alone, together with promises of due process in all areas where state and individual are brought together.
"Some bills of rights have been more technically comprehensive than others. Some have been more effective than others. But, historically, it has been fear of the State that has lain behind calls for any bill of rights.
"The effect - and probably the intention - of this proposed bill of rights is to weaken protection of genuine rights by the enumeration of non-rights.
"We have a right to freedom of speech. We have a right to freedom of association. We have a right to fair trials in which the State is at a procedural disadvantage. We have no right whatever to education or healthcare that go beyond what we have freely contracted to obtain. We have no right not to be poor that goes beyond our right not to be deprived of our justly-acquired property.
"It may be politically expedient, in some times and places, for the tax payers to be forced to subsidise the education and healthcare and general support of the poor. But the expectations thereby created cannot be described as rights. These expectations can only be met by the violation of the right of the tax payers to their property.
"And the right to a 'healthy' environment is an expectation that legitimises wholesale violations of life, liberty and property.
"Nothing in the news reports we have seen suggests that this proposed new bill of rights will contain prohibitions of racial, religious or sexual "discrimination". But we find it unlikely, given the current state of ruling class opinion, that these will not be there. They also are not rights, and involve the systematic violation of genuine rights. No one has a right not to be hated or despised. No one has a right to force anyone to associate with him. No one has an obligation to remain silent on matters of politics, religion, science or history, among much else.
"Nor is anything said about the supposed need to balance rights against responsibilities. Again, it is unlikely that this will be left out. The European concept of "abus de droit" has been in practice a means of limiting the exercise of rights in any way found inconvenient by the State. It has never so far had any place in English law. The proper place for setting out the details of our obligation to leave others alone is the civil and criminal law.
"The Human Rights Act 1998 is imperfect in its protection of rights. Even so, it is a document that recognises the rights of the western liberal tradition. Until it can be replaced by a more perfectly liberal document, it should be left in place. If any change is required, it should only be to give the courts power to strike down any subsequent law explicitly as well as implicitly reducing its protections."
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