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rulerfadeRED.jpg (3463 bytes)SOCIETY FOR INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM
Vivian Linacre
Yardstick Dec 2001

Here is the text (abridged) of the address by Vivian Linacre to a 
Luncheon Meeting of the Society for Individual Freedom in the House of Lords on 25 October.

 "I propose to take as my starting point a familiar theme, from which I can then develop an original theme. You all know that the evil of compulsory metrication, constitutionally and ethically, derives from its manifestation of prescriptive law, as opposed to the proscriptive law that prevails in any free society. The metrication regulations prescribe the exclusively authorized units of measurement, thereby prohibiting any units not specifically authorized. Thus, the use of any archaic, technical, regional or colloquial unit of measurement may have become a criminal offence, merely because some civil servant in Brussels or the DTI has inadvertently omitted it from the relevant schedule. 

So, under this authoritarian regime, the presumption is that anything is illegal unless expressly permitted. In contrast, under our common law, the presumption is always that anything is legal unless expressly prohibited - just as, in a criminal trial, the accused is presumed innocent until proved guilty. In a free society, the law states what you must not do - commit murder or walk on the grass - leaving one free to do anything else; whereas under a dictatorship the law states what one must do - wave a little red book containing the sayings of Chairman Mao or exchange 'Heil Hitler!' salutes or use specified metric units - on pain of punishment for non-compliance. 

In a free society, the state is not interested in what anybody does, provided it does not infringe the law; but in a totalitarian society (such as ours has gradually become ever since our capitulation to Napoleonic law in 1973) the state is very interested in everything we do, in case we dare depart from the party line. 
Now, to ascend from the particular to the general, there is an exact analogy with the legislative treatment of freedom itself. Until this totalitarian revolution, every kind of freedom was a freedom from something - freedom from violence, from want, from fear, from religious persecution or state oppression - but suddenly it has become the opposite. Freedom, too, that was proscriptive, has become prescriptive. Now, freedom is what the state tells us it is: it is what the state chooses to confer upon us. Freedom used to be regarded as a natural condition, which it was the function of the state to protect; but now it exists exceptionally - only by grace and prescription of the state. Freedom used to celebrate the absence of various enemies, but now it is a number of benefits conferred by the state. We no longer enjoy freedom in general: instead, we are supposed to rejoice in a collection of particular, so- called freedoms. 

(Once, the constitution of the UK could ideally be encapsulated in twelve words: "I am a subject of the Crown and therefore a free man." What more was ever needed?) 

As with freedoms, so with 'rights'. (The distinction, of course, is that freedoms are, or should be, generic and major, whereas rights are specific and minor; but under modern governments, as we have seen, freedoms are degenerating into mere rights.) The only purpose of any official definition of 'rights' is to restrict them. (Do you remember John Major's love affair with 'Charters' in the early '90s? So much poisonous hot air!) Again, let me revert to metrication for a perfect illustration of the tyranny of so-called 'rights'. You will recall that, when use of metric units was made compulsory, a 'derogation' (concession) was granted, whereby, alongside but subordinate to the metric marking, the equivalent in imperial units could also be shown. This use is called a 'supplementary indication'. Such use is entirely optional - at the discretion of the supplier or retailer - since the only legal requirement is the metric marking. Accordingly, it is of no concern to the authorities whether or not the imperial equivalent is also displayed. 
Indeed, a 'supplementary indication' consists of no more than the provision of additional information, for which no permission could ever possibly be needed. But the EC and the DTI as its agent solemnly express the use of supplementary indications as a right generously accorded in order to ease the transition to a metric-only regime. So this 'right' was first extended to 31 December 1989, then renewed for another ten years and then for yet another ten years, to the end of 2009. Yet early this year Parliament, to its eternal shame, approved the latest metric regulations, enforcing that final cut-off date, thereby effectively making it a criminal offence, as from 1 January 2010, even to display imperial units as supplementary indications. [Many of those voting for this guillotine were vehemently assuring their constituents, when seeking re-election only four months later, of their whole-hearted opposition to compulsory metrication!] It was not enough for the EC to insist on metric measuring and pricing; any mention of imperial units must be prohibited, even purely for the provision of additional information. 

This is not only a violation of the article in what is laughingly called the European Convention on Human Rights protecting freedom of commercial speech; it is sheer malice - cultural cleansing in its crudest form. The only attempt at justification that I have heard is that continued use of customary measures, even as supplementary indications, gives their users an "unfair competitive advantage" over metric-only traders - because, of course, they are so much more popular with consumers! 
Politicians and the DTI go to any lengths to suppress the fact that customary measures for use in trade will be completely abolished only eight years hence. Such is their breath-taking hypocrisy, they will meanwhile continue to make a great virtue of preserving use of imperial units for supplementary indications. In the same way, as late as 1998 the government was still proclaiming that "We are determined that retailers will remain free, until the end of this century, to sell fresh foods in pounds and ounces", by which they meant that "as from the end of next year it will be a criminal offence." 

The fundamental point is that the state (i.e. the EC), by arrogating unto itself the right, in the first instance - an original right which it never possessed - to confer the 'right' to use supplementary indications, implicitly reserved unto itself the further right to terminate that conferred 'right' whenever it chose. These, then, are the twin evils of all so-called rights bestowed by the state: (a) whatever is not expressed as a specific right is tacitly forbidden, and (b) the grant of any right may be withdrawn as the state determines. There are no inalienable rights any more; only rights that are ours to enjoy on sufferance or by grace of government and only for so long as it pleases. 
Linacre's Law declares: "the more rights the more servitude". One could endlessly catalogue the rights of a slave: the right to breathe, to blink his eyes, to sing - subject to a certain decibel limit - to wear a loincloth of an approved size, the right to perhaps two ladles of water a day, to defecate once a day, the right to work eighteen hours a day and seven days a week, to cohabit with a female slave perhaps once a year, ad infinitum. 

Like customary measures, freedom is inherent in nature and cannot be abolished. Like the metric system, this new structure of 'rights' is an artificial fabrication and will not endure. Hence my title, 'The Three Dimensions of Freedom', for, in addition to the two basic kinds of freedom (physical and intellectual), we now need a third: freedom from what I call 'bureaumorality' or 'burethics' - i.e. freedom from the so-called freedoms conferred by government and from regulation by state-inflicted 'rights'. Even if I were not interested in weights and measures, it is for that third freedom that I would fight and gladly die. The battle cry is: 'Down with rights! I don't want them. I'm a free man.'

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