“Closing St Paul’s? It’s elf n’ safety gone mad.”
We’re not being deafened by this opinion. Nor were some traditional defenders of the rights of property owners much outraged by the Dale Farm evictions: compare the Mail’s coverage with the generally sympathetic reporting it has given to other people who broke planning laws.
Such double standards are, of course, not unique. Many on the right think that the unemployed should travel to look for work, but want immigration laws to stop them crossing national borders when they do. And in 2008 many of those who had spent the last thirty years telling us to stand on our own two feet and singing the virtues of free markets suddenly discovered the virtues of state aid. As Ross Clark says, “our free market system tends to become rather less free when powerful people are in danger losing money.”
Now, you might think I’m going to say that this shows that many Tories are just hypocrites.
I’m not. Hypocrisy is ubiquitous. You can find it on the left as well as the right.
Instead, there’s another point here - that there’s a conflict between tribalism and self-interest on the one hand and freedom on the other.
The problem with freedom is that it doesn’t just promote our own interests. It can harm these interests; laisser-faire required that banks collapse, with unpleasant externalities. And it can promote the interests of people who aren’t in our tribe. Freer planning laws help pikeys as well as Daily Mail readers. And the freedom to work where you want is good for foreigners as well as Brits.
This means that the cause of freedom is ill-served by tribalism and self-interest. And because the latter are significant forces in politics, we cannot hope that freedom will thrive.