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"Is democracy the same as freedom?"

Peter Hitchens wrote some weeks ago on the relationship between democracy and freedom, and was joined by more than 60 commentators. If you missed his piece, and the comments, they're worth reading.

An excerpt,


People go on about how our forebears 'fought' for democracy, and I have to say I see little evidence of that. Politicians have been pretty willing to hand over the vote once they realised how easy it was to manipulate people. But our ancestors certainly fought for liberty under the law. Not far from where I live is the memorial to John Hampden, whose stand against King Charles I was genuinely heroic, and helped secure liberty in this country. Not long afterwards, he died in battle for his beliefs. Yet most people nowadays haven't even heard of him.

The whole long story of the struggle for free speech and a free press, for jury trial and Habeas Corpus, for the Right to Bear Arms (yes, we have it) for protection against the billeting of soldiers or searches of our houses, is a very inspiring and touching one, involving many acts of determined bravery by plain, dutiful people. Macaulay's history of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, in which a courageous jury saved us from despotism - is as thrilling and instructive now as it was when it was written. The politicians of the time were, in most cases, as cowardly and devious as those of today. But the cores of the English people were wedded to liberty and national independence (which cannot be separated).

Those "many acts of determined bravery" by plain and passionate people are described in the Liberty Timeline. Personally I like John Hampden's uncle, Edmund. He was one of the Five Knights who defied Charles I's "forced loan", a species of taxation by stealth without the approval of Parliament. Edmund Hampden went to prison rather than pay it, and died as a result of his imprisonment after habeas corpus was denied. The people fought back with the Petition of Right.

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