Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Freedom For Sale

Extract From Freedom For Sale by John Kampfner, published by Simon and Schuster

I call it the anaesthetic of the brain. In the UK and US, much of this decade has been dominated by a low-tax and security agenda that saw unprecedented intrusion of the state into people's lives, from surveillance and eavesdropping to pre-trial custody and other curbs on civil liberties. How many people complained? In Italy, what mattered far more than his sexual antics was Silvio Berlusconi's assault on the independence of the media and judiciary. How many times has he been voted into power?

The model for this new world order is Singapore, the state in which I was born, and which has long intrigued me. I am constantly struck by the number of well-educated and well-travelled people there I know who are keen to defend a system that requires an almost complete abrogation of freedom of expression in return for a good material life.

This is the pact. In each country it varies; citizens hand over different freedoms in accordance with their own customs and priorities. Cultures and circumstances may vary; systems can be radically different. We have all colluded; in the West we have colluded most. Unlike Russia, unlike China, we had the choice to demand more of our governments, to rebalance the relationship between state and individual, but for as long as the consumerist going was good we chose not to exercise it.

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