Sunday, 1 March 2009

Modern Liberty or the nightmare state

Dystopia - 10 years in the future

I went to catch the train. Buying the ticket was easy - I didn't have to, as all I did was walk through the barrier, my National ID card and my Credit Card had been interrogated by contactless technology. The rescue services said it was much safer if they knew who was in which carriage when the train crashed.

As I walked into the shop my ID card registered my presence, and the CCTV checked it was me. Once or twice a week I get stopped by the security guards, they say it is my fault, because my beard causes more false negatives. The shop keepers say it has reduced shop lifting.

I get home to a message telling me that unless I walk more I will be deemed to have failed to keep my responsibilities to the State, and that the level of my health cover will be reduced. They promise that this will not impact emergency care, but that I will have lower priority in booking appointments. They list my travel over the past month, identifying 20 journeys that I could have walked rather than driven or taken the bus.

These are just examples of the level of surveillance that is possible with ID cards and a national database.

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend the Convention on Modern Liberty in London, and listened to many people who know much more about the threats to our liberty than I do. I would strongly recommend that you visit the site and distribute the information. I would also recommend that you look at NO2ID's campaign on the "information sharing order", a power currently being slipped onto the statute books in clause 152 of the coroners and justice bill.

However...

The key thing that I got from this day was the feeling that the tracking and monitoring of citizens in the UK and the EU was a monster that was running out of control. The question was asked at one stage "Whose idea was such and such piece of legislation?" the panel didn't know. The impression I got was that this was not coming from our elected leaders, but from unelected bureaucrats.

These are drawn from my day:

  • The Tory party, who are most likely to become our next government, are promising to abandon the ID Card. Yet David Davis thinks that the battle against the affront on our liberties will run for at least the next decade. The only person that is in power for this government and the next is a civil servant.

  • Apparently rational ministers get moved to the Home Office (or what ever they are calling it this week) and become bug eyed monsters. I suspect this is not something in the water, just in the voice of the senior civil servants in the ear.

  • The ministers do not appear to have read the legislation they are proposing. Edward Garnier (QC, MP) said he was surprised by the number of times that ministers had asked for time to think things through when challenged in committee.

So what can we do about this unelected, permanent and powerful elite? How do we hold to account the senior members of the Civil Service? We need to understand why they are behaving in this fashion. Here are a few possibilities...

  • They consider the mass of the population so inept, stupid and irresponsible that we need to have our lives managed by the government (Noam Chomsky writes on this).
  • They think we are untidy and difficult to handle - it would be much easier if we marched in step.
  • They have some other ulterior motive; financial or other, for implementing a repressive authoritarian regime.
  • They don't understand the implications of the legislation they are proposing.

So we need to find out - are they elitist, fascist, corrupt or incompetent?

The best of these is that they have they failed to protect our freedoms by just not thinking about the long term implications of what they are doing.

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  2. Please feel free - the site is under CC-BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/uk/)

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