Wednesday, 24 June 2009

In praise of David Mitchell

One final post before bedtime. A politician might be crucified in a frenzy of faux outrage for saying what David Mitchell says in his latest column for the Observer, which can be crudely summarised as saying it's not actually a big deal if people have to move their wheelie bins occasionally. (Obviously only people who are physically capable of doing do, the politician in me hastily adds). He broadens this out into a wider discussion of individual 'rights' versus the greater good, and puts it incredibly well.

"Our fear of being encroached upon has made us forget that there are few freedoms that can be fully exercised without impinging on someone else's. The freedom to stab has long since been subordinated to the freedom not to be stabbed. But we still have the freedom not to recycle and to borrow or lend money recklessly, regardless of others' freedom to live on a habitable planet and in a functional economy. We've hugely prioritised our rights over our duties because it's only the former that tyrants try to take away. But it can make us ridiculous."

2 comments:

Martin said...

There has never, ever been any such thing as "the freedom to stab", so that comparison makes no sense.

Also, the "common good" is a myth that can only be defined using one view, or one set of values. If it exists, which I don't think it does, it's an impossibly complex thing made up of infinate variables.

In short- Rubbish.

andy said...

Kerry rights are infringed when measures to change people's habits involve regulation instead of persuasion and compromise. Worse still when the regulation has uses junk science as a basis for its enactment(ala smoking ban). How can people be expected in the long term to act responsibly if they grow used to be told how to behave? Cynics might say that this is exactly what champagne socialists want to achieve.