“You’ve got to remember that government is more important than any individual and in my view the Labor party is more important than any individual,” said Peter Beattie in his retirement announcement. It’s not everyday that a politician shows so clearly everything that is wrong with Nanny State big government.
We promised our colleagues we’d stay away from politically charged comments. But we just couldn’t resist this one. It’s too obvious.
In his Second Treatise on Government, chapter nine (on the Ends of Political Society and Government), Locke says that before he consents to be governed, a man is the “absolute lord of his own person and possessions”. He surrenders some of this lordship in order to more perfectly protect his rights. He improves his freedom by making it more secure.
As Locke puts it, freedom without security “is full of fears and continual dangers; and it is not without reason that he seeks out and is willing to join in society with others who are already united, or have a mind to unite for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name- property.”
You can protect your property better under the rule of law, where contract is enforced, justice is equal and impartial, and where authority over your person or yourself cannot be exercised arbitrarily by a monarch, but only according to clear rules that don’t often change. Locke says, “The great and chief end, therefore, of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property; to which in the state of Nature there are many things wanting.’
Modern politicians have come to believe that their interests as an elite political class—or the interests of the Government itself as an institution—outweigh the interests of the people. But government ought not have any interests at all except those expressly granted it by the people through a constitution.
It’s all backwards these days, of course. Leaders from both sides of the political spectrum firmly believe in the power of government to correct personal behaviour of which it disapproves. Government knows best. Its interest is paramount. And it can punish if it must.
How sad. How dangerous to personal liberty. And more importantly, how un-free.
We realise Beattie was probably referring to his personal importance in the transition of power in Queensland…that no one man is more important than the institution. But our point is that this contradicts 350 years of Western political thought.
The purpose of the law is to guarantee individual and minority rights from persecution by an elected majority. The individual and his rights derived from nature nearly ALWAYS trump the State’s ability limit his freedom or coerce him through force or legislation.
How is it we’ve become so casual and thoughtless that we accept the government’s right to tell us what our rights are? They are not granted to us by the government. We are born with them. That which a government hasn’t granted it can’t take away, unless by the consent of the governed.
Anyway, we know it was a casual, throw-away line meant to show that the interest of the many trump the interests of the one. But we think Beattie and all of modern politics has it exactly wrong. This belief in collective decision making—as much as anything else—explains the mess we find ourselves in today…in wars that the people didn’t vote for…and in a financial mess that’s certain to get worse before it gets better.
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