Australia’s health activists don’t like freedom. So now they want to redefine it

It is a sure sign that a person is against freedom when they start trying to redefine it. Even politicians who espouse explicitly anti-liberal and anti-individualistic philosophies feel obliged to pay lip service to freedom from time to time. In The Doctrine of Fascism, for example, Mussolini wrote: ‘In our state the individual is not deprived of freedom. In fact, he has greater liberty than an isolated man, because the state protects him and he is part of the state.’

In this view, safety and freedom become one and the same, with true freedom coming from the state shielding its citizens from themselves. In Orwell’s Animal Farm, Squealer assures the animals that Napoleon ‘would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?’

I have mentioned before the Senate inquiry into the nanny state that is currently underway in Australia. If it does nothing else, it will at least start a dialogue about what it means to be free in a country where paternalism has been on steroids in recent years. Nobody wishes to be seen as being against freedom and yet the ‘public health’ lobby has an endless list of taxes, prohibitions and restrictions which implicitly assume that there is too much of it. The answer, as ever, is to redefine what liberty means.

The latest example of this comes from the Australian Health Promotion Association (AHPA). Its spokesman told the nanny state inquiry that ‘to be truly free’ we need to be able to walk down the street ‘free from the fear of being run down by a speeding or drunk driver’ and without being ‘exposed to cigarette smoke’. Moreover, he said, we must be ‘free from the fear that our children will be harassed by cigarette and alcohol advertising’.

What is notable about this definition of ‘true’ freedom is that it is all about being free from things rather than being free to do things. This is the tried and tested method of obfuscating the reality of policies which remove autonomy from individuals, as Orwell recognised in the appendix of 1984:

‘The word free still existed in Newspeak, but it could only be used in such statements as “This dog is free from lice” or “This field is free from weeds”. It could not be used in its old sense of “politically free” or “intellectually free” since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless.’

The AHPA actually goes further than the creators of Newspeak by demanding state intervention to ensure that people are not only ‘free from’ certain things, but that they are also free from the fear of them. This sets the bar impossibly high. Quite properly, we have laws against speeding and drunk driving, but the AHPA believes that to be ‘truly free’ we must also be ‘free from the fear of being run down by a speeding or drunk driver’. Moreover, we have the bizarre assertion that true freedom means being ‘free from the fear that our children will be harassed by cigarette and alcohol advertising’.

One wonders whether any parents go through life fearing that their child will be ‘harassed’ by alcohol advertising, but if such people exist it is doubtful that there could ever be enough laws to quell their neuroticism. The logical conclusion of the AHPA’s submission is that alcohol advertising be banned in order to address the irrational fears of hypothetical parents. Indeed, alcohol and motor vehicles should be banned entirely in order to free people of the fear of being assaulted by a drunk or hit by a speeding motorist. Smoking outdoors should be banned to protect people’s alleged right to ‘not be exposed to cigarette smoke’ and any number of restrictions on the food supply should be introduced because, they say, a person can only be ‘truly free’ if he is free from obesity.

That this all amounts to an assault on personal liberty should be obvious. The freedom to live your life as others think you should live it is no freedom at all. If it were freedom, it would not require a never-ending stream of new criminal offences to be created.
There is always a trade-off between freedom and safety. Getting the balance right is one of the oldest questions in political philosophy. For my money, nobody has bettered John Stuart Mill’s view that ‘the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others’. You may disagree, but whatever your view I trust that you acknowledge that a trade-off exists between paternalism and liberty. It is those who think that paternalism is liberty that pose the greatest threat to a free society.


  • Mag01

    “He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.”

    Benjamin Franklin

    To which I would add – And they will end up with neither.

  • Jack Listerio

    simple shoot the commies!

  • Costas Kitis

    That is absolutely right and a very good article, thank you for it. Creating new criminal affences like you said would only be necessary if they were defined as such because the corresponding actions were objectively wrong or harm someone else including the perpertrator. And it tends to happen in Australia all the time that there are minimal rights for people and that democracy is being undermined by instructionalism, utilitarianism and offensive towards democracy actions and behaviours from the state. That is very unfriendly and incooperative towards the citizen and should be intolerable by any kind of state and in any civilised society.

    • Jack Listerio

      They INVENT and make up harms to make new criminal laws for.

      The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) could not even produce evidence that passive smoke is significantly harmful inside, this is what they wrote prior to the smoking ban in article 9 OC255/15 9 “The evidential link between individual circumstances of exposure to risk in exempted premises will be hard to establish. In essence, HSE cannot produce epidemiological evidence to link levels of exposure to SHS to the raised risk of contracting specific diseases and it is therefore difficult to prove health-related breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act”. The reason the ban was brought in under the Health Act 2006, and not by the HSE, because no proof of harm was needed with the Health Act 2006, and the HSE have to have proof, seems the DM has lost rational thought about anything smoke related.

      HATE IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE

      • Costas Kitis

        I don’t really think that any sort of harm could be invented or devised unless it already existed. The laws are intended at preventing such harms from occuring because of others and their actions and their interaction with other people and the environment. In that sense, making up ‘harms’ does not reflect or represent any real harm, and can be put under doubt by the individual concerned by claiming that that law does not prevent anything from happening that could cause or inflict harm onto others, but only prevents him or her from doing something that they want or would like to do. For example smoking inside a building is not hurting or harming anyone and is should not have been a punishable offence, just for that reason. The law is in this case dictating our actions without general approval and restricting us in ways that are not necessary or essential to our survival, thus reducing our personal freedom and autonomy, with rules that have become laws without general agreement of the public, either having taken public opinion into account as everyone has already seen. Smokers haven’t been asked if they would agree explicitly, to compare that result with the percentage of non-smokers who would also agree or disagree. Instead, the parliament has been asked to vote on a utilitarian and one-sided injust law that should really be challenged as to its validity and questioned on the basis of its fairness and not its use.

        • Jack Listerio

          The thing is peoples rights and liberties are never up for a vote or even a public opinion poll. rights are god given not regulated by government. The government has no righ to tell anyone what to do save say a stop lite to get traffic flowing without REAL ACCIDENTS. Clean food kept at proper temperatures and handling. These are things we know cause harm to us and others. Its proven! What is based upon simple hate is smoking bans and obesity bans and sugary bans alcohol bans etc etc………. We have laws on drunk driving for a reason,loss of ability to drive. Being intoxicated isn’t drunk driving,the act of not being able to control your car in a safe manner is what should constitute drunk driving not a blow and go test.

    • Jack Listerio

      ……………The rise of a pseudo-scientific links lobby

      Every day there seems to be a new study making a link between food, chemicals or lifestyle and ill-health. None of them has any link with reality.

      spiked-onlineDOTcom/newsite/article/13287#DOTU6ibAzYo59A

  • Excellent quote from 1984! Unfortunately we’ve already allowed the “Winston Smiths” of today’s world to control far too much of our media in the pursuit of the Endgame of the Antismokers. E.G. Watch the series BONES. There are over 200 episodes. I actually watched *ALL* of them while keeping track (No, I’m not *actually* obsessive: I just happened to “discover” the series on Netflix a while ago and watched a couple a day for a few months for my “down time while doing a little “cross hatch” count on a pad for most of them.) You’ll find over 1500 instances of people imbibing alcohol, but only 5 instances (!) of anyone smoking! I hesitate to wonder what will be left of the show ten years from now if/when the “Alcohol Censors” get done bleeping out the drinking scenes!

    BONES isn’t alone in that problem btw: lots of “child friendly” shows like Hannibal (where the main character not only kills and dismembers his victims but then goes on to serve them up as fine French Cuisine to tablefuls of happy drinking guests) and Hart of Dixie and dozens of others (with a few exceptions… usually shows featuring alcoholics, druggies, pedophiles, sex-addicts, and depressive-mentally-disturbed folks) are all cleansed of smoking for the kiddies but drown in seas of alcohol and free love.

    Redefining reality AS A WHOLE is at the core of any good mind-control program in science fiction, and we’ve been allowing it to happen in our media for “the good cause” of getting rid of smoking. Remember the old saying about opening the barn door? It might be time to shoo the horses back inside and close it: our media should REFLECT reality… not try to create a false one without our knowledge.

    – MJM

  • Jack Listerio

    In America we have the 9th amendment

    Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    This amendment is used to protect the citizenry from any expansion of governmental power because of the limited nature of the Bill of Rights. Because every right of the people of the United States could not possibly be mentioned in the Constitution, the Ninth Amendment was added to supplement those already mentioned. The amendment protects many rights implied in a universal civil code, and those that are linked to other rights already declared. It protects these personal liberties from state and federal infringement.

    On property rights: “It is not the right OF property which is protected, but the right TO property. Property per se has no rights; but the individual—the man—has three great rights, equally sacred from arbitrary interference: the right to his life, the right to his liberty, the right to his property . . . . The three rights are so bound to together as to be essentially one right. To give a man his life but deny him his liberty, is to take from him all that makes his life worth living. To give him his liberty but take from him the property which is the fruit and badge of his liberty, is to still leave him a slave” – U.S. Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland.