___

___

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Niall Ferguson on "What Price Liberty?"

One of the best things I read over the Memorial Day weekend was Niall Ferguson's review in the Financial Times of Ben Wilson's new book, What Price Liberty?. I'd like to share some of it with you.

Here's an excerpt from that review:

"“The privileges of thinking, saying, and doing what we please, and of growing as rich as we can, without any other restrictions, that by all this we hurt not the public, not one another, are the glorious privileges of liberty.”

These are the words of “Cato” (the nom de plume of John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon), writing in the early 1720s. For the better part of two centuries, that view was widely held in England, and Englishmen were not wrong to believe that it set them apart from continental Europeans and “Orientals”.

Also integral to the English conception of liberty was John Locke’s linkage of freedom and private property. In the landmark Entick v Carrington case (1765), Lord Camden ruled against the government for raiding the home of the radical journalist John Entick. “The great end for which men entered into society was to secure their property,” declared Camden. “By the laws of England, every invasion of private property, be it ever so minute, is a trespass.”

Almost as important was the principle of minding your own business. “The taste for making others submit to a way of life which one thinks more useful for them than they do themselves,” John Stuart Mill explained to the French liberal Alexis de Tocqueville, “is not a common taste in England.”

Do what you like as long as you do no harm. An Englishman’s home is his castle. And mind your own bloody business. When did these three great principles of liberty cease to be sacrosanct in England? Wilson has little doubt that it was the two world wars that began the process...".

Do check out the full piece, especially if you're interested to know how an English writer's discussion of liberty pertains to those of us living in the good ole' USA.

As Ferguson notes in his review, you can also download Wilson's book, What Price Liberty?, for any price you wish.

Related articles and posts:

1. Ben Wilson: What Price Liberty? - What Price Liberty? Blog.

2. Niall Ferguson: The Ascent of Money (PBS) - Finance Trends.