Want to have fun? You need permission and a licence for that

Surprisingly, I came across something worth reading in the Guardian this week. It was a piece on how increasing government regulation is destroying the spirit of the famous annual Notting Hill carnival in London (and violating the rights of its participants, of course).

“Standing next to a stack of speakers on All Saints Road, DJ Alistair Roberts of Rapattack, one of 38 sound systems at the Notting Hill carnival this year, went through the paperwork he has to fill out before he can play a single tune.

Events notice, bar licence, risk assessment, a site plan, premises licence, licence to play in the street. “Back in the day, we used to string up on any street we wanted and just play,” Alistair said. “Now everything’s regulated so we have protocols with the police.

“You can’t even give out leaflets in the street within the carnival footprint. We have to get a licence to give out fliers in your spot … We can’t even sell our own CDs without a licence.”

Want to sing and dance with a bunch of other people in the street? Want to act spontaneously? You’ll need permission and (to buy) several licences for that. Welcome to 21st century Britain.

Oh, how we’re sucking the life out of our society; how we’re eroding the ‘free’ part of free society – regulation by regulation. A freedom which has heroically survived attempts by terrible external evils to kill it. But which cannot survive the slow death from within brought about by the cancer that is the widespread belief in the virtue of violence (government action), which pervades the minds of Britons today.

What’s happening to the Notting Hill carnival is what happens when every type of special interest group imaginable is able to leverage government force to stop other people behaving in ways that don’t violate anyone else’s rights, but which they dislike/find annoying. The cumulative effect is a regulatory state that extends and wraps itself around our private lives like a strangling vine, and which ultimately becomes a money-making racket for local councils. Which then, naturally, come up with all manner of justifications for expanding it.

The presence of police (who stick to enforcing common law) is justified and necessary at events like the Notting Hill carnival. But local government compelling people to hand over money just to play music, hand out flyers or sell their own stuff under threat of fines or imprisonment is simply using violence against innocent people. Rarely do the victims recognise this reality and the perpetrators never do, which is why it happens every day, but that is what it is. Let us call a spade a spade.

We need to acknowledge that what is being done to us is wrong. It violates our freedoms. And we need to start making it clear to those in local authority who enforce these regulations that what they do is not merely inconvenient to us, but morally wrong. Why? Because forcing people to hand over money to do peaceful actions (e.g. handing out flyers or playing music etc) or preventing them from doing them altogether, violates our universally held moral principles. The very ones we live by in our personal lives every day.

These principles are codified as common law, which no one, including government, is supposed to be above). We have law because it’s an undeniable logical fact of reality that human beings have property rights (which begins with the property of our person). We don’t have property rights only because laws written by men or Gods say we do.

Complaints of inconvenience are easily dismissed by a couldn’t-care-less council worker who hears them every day, but many will find it harder to ignore being (politely) accused of acting immorally. Accusation should always be followed by explanation of one’s argument, of course, otherwise it will seem to be dismiss-able opinion and not rational proposition.

Philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand once declared that “we are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission…” If she were alive today, then she probably would have pointed to the Notting Hill Carnival as a perfect but tragic example of what she meant.

This alarming eroding of freedom in our society, epitomised by the regulation of the Notting Hill carnival, won’t be arrested until the (many) people who make a living out of enforcing regulations begin to doubt the morality of what they do, and until a significant minority of the public begins to doubt the virtue of government action (violence) against innocent people.

At the moment, both groups of people are still convinced of the virtue of their behaviour, which is why the regulatory state continues to expand, why freedom continues to contract and why events like the Notting Hill carnival are having the life stamped out of them by government boots.

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