Dan Hannan: Common law, not EU law

This is something very important – something we do not pay sufficient attention to:  common law.

It is the basis of our freedoms:  the legislature with all its lawmakers are not the source of our rights and freedoms – they do not grant them to us from above.  Rather, core rights and freedoms are something we are born with, not something that comes from the state.

Yes, we recognize that in order to co-exist with others, we may agree to put some restrictions on our freedoms:  that is the role of our elected representatives.

In common law, there is the explicit recognition that rights come from within each individual and that governments – all governments – are there to restrict these freedoms.  The less (smaller) the government, the fewer restrictions on our rights and the more free we will be.  The bigger th government, the more restrictions and the fewer freedoms….

This is a philosophy which views each human being as an individual, full of potential and free to fulfill this potential or not.

It is in sharp contrast to the view that every person is born as a cog in a machine, a member of a society which has the ultimate power over her or him.  Under this philosophy, it is the society which is the source of right in as much as it permits each member of the society to fulfil a role it deems most beneficial for the society.  In this type of a set up, one only has the options that the society opens for them, no freedoms to choose things or actions outside of what the group would benefit from.  This is called the civil law…

We must never forget the distinction between the two – and we must never give up our heritage of freedom for the gilded cage of civil law.

Just last night, I was reading to my son a 19th century traveller’s description of the Magna Carta Island – and the writer had permitted his imagination to float back across the centuries to that unforgettable June morning in 1215 when King John was brought there and forced to acknowledge this principle – already old then, but in danger of being eroded…

Sure, the Magna Carta is an imperfect document – as all human products are.  But, it is the source of – and vastly superior to – all further re-tellings of it, from the US Constitution to the Canadian one, and so on.  Along the way, the documents have become more and more cumbersome and less and less perfected…so we can trace just how much of our birthright we are permitting ourselves to give up in order to live in ‘civilized’ society.

But, do not lose heart!

Precisely because from Magna Carta on, all these documents are mere affirmations of our pre-existing rights, it is our rights that are supreme should there ever be a disagreement.  Precisely because it was the rights that were pre-existing!

Now, if we could only have judges who see it as clearly as this!

Daniel Hannan’s speech to the Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa


Dan Hannan with John Robson


Dan Hannan with Brian Lilley on governance


Daniel Hannan: Speech to the IPA in Melbourne

Daniel Hannan: Politicians can’t create jobs

This is an important point – and one that all politicians ought to be reminded of, often and firmly.

I am not an economist, so there is no way I am going to articulate this eloquently or even remotely well, but…I would not be myself if I didn’t give it a shot.

There is an old joke – very old – that could get people sent to jail if they said a variation of it back behind the iron curtain, where I grew up:

What is the fastest way to get rid of all the sand in the Sahara desert?

Create a government department with the sole purpose of supplying sand to the Sahara.  Give it a steering committee, a 5 year plan and lots of money and power to enforce policies.  For a little while, nothing will happen.  Then:  BOOM!  Sand will be more scarce in the Sahara than meat is in butcher shops!

(If you are one of the younger readers who does not remember what life behind the iron curtain was like, let me just say that butcher shops usually had very, very little to offer.  If a supply of meat was even rumoured to be coming in, people would stand in lines for hours, sometimes lining up all night just so they may be one of the first few in line in the morning because the supplies were so meager that even with limits per customer, only the first few people in line would get to buy any meat.  Bread and milk were usually available, but again, even with bread, the supply would run out before the demand.  I remember days when the limit would be set at one quarter loaf of bread per customer, so that my mom would go line up and send me to line upseparately, so we’d get half a loaf between us.  No kidding.  We had money – but there was no ‘stuff’ to buy with it.)

‘Governments creating jobs’ is one of those easy to fall into fallacies.  Like ‘the broken window’ fallacy:

The fact is that governments do not just ‘have money’ to spend:  their money comes from taxes, current or future.  Taxes are taken from people who earn it by the threat of force:  these people now no longer have that money to spend to look after themselves and their family.

Ah, say government spending proponents, but what if people want to save their money instead of spending it?  That would be bad for the economy and that is why governments must take it from them and spend it!

Isn’t that just a little oppressive?  And arrogant?

A government is supposed to represent the people and do the people’s bidding – not force people to do the government’s bidding!

The suggestion that governments should spend the people’s money because people don’t want to spend it themselves is illustrative of how the relationship between the citizens and our government has been inverted:  insted of being our servant, the government has become our master, forcing us to do what we do not want to do.

That we are proposing ‘government stimulus spending’ and ‘government creating jobs’ as desirable actions should give us a moment of pause to consider what this implies about our relationship to our governments and the status of our civil liberties!

Dan Hannan: the ‘Sir Humphrey argument’

Also, there is an excellent, 1/2-hour long speech by Dan Hannan on America and Europe – check it out on JR’s site.  I love Mr. Hannan’s well constructed phraseoplogy and impeccable delivery, but keep coming back because of the excellence of his ideas.