« Cameron and Drugs. | Main | AC Grayling. »

October 17, 2005

Marcel Berlins

Just occasionally the Groan publishes something really worth reading. Today’s example is Marcel Berlin:

Mr Blair and Mr Clarke - had they paid attention - would have learned two important principles. These are not soft, wishy-washy bleeding-heart mantras but realistic conclusions based on history and hard experience.

First, human rights are not just there for good, law abiding people. They are standards of basic humanity, a mark of civilised behaviour. A nation's level of civilisation is to be judged not by the way it treats the majority of its citizens but what it does to its minorities, its criminals, its troublemakers, its misfits.

Second, you cannot defend and promote a democratic system by taking away the very freedoms that made it a democracy in the first place. All that happens is that the country becomes unfree and unpleasant - and probably still unable to resolve the terrorism problem it started off with.


October 17, 2005 in Law | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Marcel Berlins:


I wonder if other inmates of the Grauniad asylum agree with this? Being on the same side of the debate as Polly and George would feel kinda creepy.

Posted by: Chris harper | Oct 17, 2005 1:30:06 PM

Did he just prove that we lost WWII? But I see he mentions terrorism specifically. Is he only speaking in terms of, say, the long-term outcomes of the last nine or ten cases in which loose aggregates of industrialized democracies had to deal with something like al Qaeda? Which cases would those be, exactly? "History and hard experience" sounds like he's seen this kind of thing before.

This stuff is on the same level as the idea that you can't respond to violence with violence, 'cause, like, uhh, they're like, both violent, and, you know, it's a contradiction in terms and like, pass the bong, man.

He's presenting these things as if they were theorems, and they aren't. It's not geometry. Does he have a protractor that can measure civil liberties? Let X equal Democracy. If X is less than 5.9, then we can clearly see that the angle of Pursuit of Happiness becomes acute! QED! WTF?

I'm not arguing against human rights and democracy, but his arguments in favor are nonsensical (which is an achievement in itself). Sure, you can't "defend" a democracy by making it completely undemocratic, but it's very common for democracies to tighten up a bit during crises. How much? Well, gee, no more than necessary, you hope. However much that is. But lots of 'em have done it to a significant degree, and after the crisis was over ended up as democratic and civil libertarian after as they were before, if not more so.

It's impassioned oratory, not thought.

Posted by: Professor Froward | Oct 18, 2005 1:34:24 AM