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One rare exception came in the Second World War: as France fell and Britain feared invasion, Churchill authorised the detention of “enemy aliens” on the Isle of Man, many of whom were Jewish refugees from the Nazis. Churchill knew this perfectly well. In one of the less celebrated passages of his celebrated speech of June 4, 1940, he said: “I am very sorry for them, but we cannot, at the present time and under the present stress, draw all the distinctions which we should like to do.” He was much criticised at the time in the Commons; it is a tribute to British parliamentary democracy that the great majority of detainees were released within a year. Yet though such emergency measures may be justifiable in wartime, it is hard to imagine the British enduring a state of emergency in response to terrorist attacks, however terrible, as the French have done since November 2015. The rights of the individual, freedom of speech and the rule of law must never, in a civilised society, be abrogated indefinitely merely for the convenience of the state. Extraordinary counter-terrorism measures are sometimes necessary for public safety, but they must be proportionate to the peril and always subject to judicial oversight. The Western democracies have usually got the balance between liberty and security about right, but the English-speaking peoples are still usually more vigilant than our Continental counterparts.

Protecting individual liberties on a global scale is, of course, much more difficult than doing so at home, but no less vital to our own long-term security. The migration crisis has reminded us that the lack of prosperity and liberty for hundreds of millions of individuals in Asia and Africa can have a direct impact on Europe and America. The West must promote the benefits of free markets regulated by impartial rules laid down by authorities accountable to the people. This is what the late Michael Novak called democratic capitalism, and it remains the greatest engine of growth the world has ever seen. By contrast, the crony capitalism of Russia, China and many other countries where democracy is either wholly lacking or deeply corrupt, enjoys far less legitimacy and is consequently more precarious. Equality before the law remains a precondition of prosperity, liberty and a civilised society. In Catholic moral theology, it is not only murder that cries out to heaven for justice, but the cry of oppressed peoples, slaves and exploited workers.

Individuals in the West insist that our governments acknowledge a duty to use their power and influence to relieve the suffering of those less fortunate than ourselves. This duty need not take the form of foreign aid, but it does require intervention in cases of genocide or other crimes against humanity. In the case of Syria, for example, the West was too slow to act. Democracies may not fight wars with one another, but they do hide behind one another in avoiding their humanitarian obligations. Many of them are fearful of leading, rather than following, public opinion — disdainful or ignorant as they are of Edmund Burke’s principle that members of parliament should represent voters rather than be their delegates. Representative democracy does not entail ignoring the electorate’s wishes; but it does imply offering leadership, both intellectual and practical, to those for whom politics is at most a peripheral concern.

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September 15th, 2017
12:09 PM
Freedom Day June 24 2016 The glorious chaotic dawn of our Brexit victory Julie Burchill Kate Hoey Gilbert & George John Lydon Ringo Starr ("Don`t tell Bob Geldof") Morrissey Brexitannia not Remainia We scored 17.4 million goals Remainia scored 16.1 million goals A clear win by Brexitannia The Toeies are still the Nasty Party,the gruel- propaganda party reduced to delusions of adequacy. It`s Julie Burchill not Winston Churchill . It`s Camille Paglia not Hilary Clinton in the USA. I'm popular culture it`s Ringo Starr not Bob Geldof. The Lady of Burma is being compared to Hitler by the Left for not barking for Islam .

Lawrence James
September 4th, 2017
12:09 PM
'Democracies do not fight one another ?'The Confederate States of America v the United States of America . . . Britain against the Boer republics . . . the North German Confederation against France in 1870 ?

Stephen Blendell
August 30th, 2017
7:08 PM
For those who might be interested, there is now one authoritative treatise on liberty, its history and the various types of liberty."Liberty's Progress?" by Prof Gerard Casey has just been published - coincidentally to coincide with this edition of Standpoint!

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