Alpesh Patel’s Political Sketchbook: On Liberty and Masks

Alpesh Patel Tuesday 06th July 2021 03:15 EDT

Liberal democracies such as the UK find their turning points when they turned away from religion-based laws, started separating State and Faith and focussed on legal philosophical writings of people like JS Mill (On Liberty).

The question became not, what law would God want, but will this law prevent harm - the harm principle. Of course today, 'harm' includes offence not just physical harm. And that itself encroaches the liberty of speech.

This matters as the State decides when we should wear masks. Never in peacetime has the State had so much control of our daily lives. And never have I seen so many people asking for the State to continue dictating their lives.

Paternalism and socialism are closely linked. Liberalism is not inconsistent with those. But you won't find a Conservative Government moving down that road too far or too long.

Now you mention the mask ban, a bit of history.

The first stop on the State-Church-State road is in 1675 when King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland officially became a Roman Catholic.

When he died in 1701 he had reigned for 44 years as King of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The churches alone were not enough for him so he wanted more Church control over the lives of his subjects. And there was an easy solution - make all the laws, make peace and war and taxation decisions all them in turn including the Parliament (House of Lords), who were appointed by him (King). He also had the power to socialise the country's economy through religious taxes.

It was all a bit of a mess. If you were a Protestant, life was wonderful, but if you were a Roman Catholic it was awful.

France started the process in 1682 when it decreed that all Protestants (Calvinist) had to wear an official badge identifying their faith.

And England followed suit in 1696 as a result of the Titus Oates plot and the Popish Plot. The Act of Toleration brought about by William III ceded this power to Parliament which then passed laws forcing Catholics to give up their English identity and swear allegiance to the Church of England or face severe penalties.

On Liberty was written in 1859, during a time where the UK was beginning to more liberal towards religious diversity.

It did not get much attention at the time, but Mill warned that if people were not allowed to think for themselves they would be easily manipulated by those who did. I'm sure there are those who would say he has been proven right today.

The question - is it freedom that we want or safety? On Liberty may just have been one man's answer to the question as it stands today.

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