Friday, 26 October 2007

On Liberty

Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an important speech yesterday on the subject of liberty. I recommend reading it (particularly to my students, but it should be of interest to all). In it he discusses the British notion of liberty - and applies it to the discussion of constitutional change which he initiated immediately upon becoming Prime Minister. The full text of the speech can be found at http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page13630.asp

Of further interest to Washminster readers is his contrast of US and UK concepts of liberty. I reproduce his remarks for your interest; reflection - and comment.

"One view of the American tradition of liberty manifests itself in the 'leave me alone' state. But while concern for privacy is central in our tradition, the British conception of liberty which runs though and defines much of our national experience has not led, at least for most of our history, to notions of the isolated individual left on his own --- it is privacy not loneliness that British people seem to value. Nor did it lead to selfish individualism.

Instead, throughout the last three hundred years in Britain, as Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has eloquently described, the progress of the idea of liberty has gone hand in hand with notions of social responsibility: 'the active citizen', the 'good neighbour', and civic pride, emphasising that people are not just self interested but members of a wider community - sustained by the mutual obligation we all feel to each other."

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