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Customer Review

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Use it or loose it!, 21 Jun. 2009
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This review is from: What Price Liberty?: How Freedom Was Won and Is Being Lost (Paperback)
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I have to admit that I found the first three or four sections of this book fairly hard going. It starts out as an academic history of the development of the concept of 'liberty'. Starting with Charles I, through King William, the French and American Revolutions up to the First World War, Wilson traces the development of this rather elusive concept.

However, from the First World War, things become rather more concrete and the final two sections from 1951 up to the present provide a powerful polemic on the dangers to our historically established rights of liberty.

Liberty has always been a rather nebulous concept in Britain, but that has been both its strength and weakness - it has relied on people 'doing the right thing' rather than any written down Bill of Rights. What it actually depends upon is highly debatable - Wilson cites both Hayek and Isaiah Berlin, contrasting economic freedom and totalitarianism, negative and positive freedom. At times, he echoes the themes explored by Adam Curtis. He also both contrasts and shows the continuities between Thatcher and Blair.

The final section is the most fascinating, bringing the debate right up-to-date, talking about multiculturalism - permissive and liberal societies faced with other cultures who do not reciprocate this acceptance but seem to take advantage of it. Here, the discussion broadens out to cover not only the UK (the fatwah on Salman Rushdie) but also the Netherlands (Theo van Gogh) and Denmark (the notorious cartoons). It also considers the double-edged sword of the new technologies, the development of huge databases which help both to provide tailored services to individuals and to track those same individuals in more and finer detail.

Wilson points out that we are slowly but surely relinquishing our liberties in favour of the three pillars of modern obsession: Health, Safety and Security. In his epilogue, Wilson writes a powerful call to arms:

"Liberty is a product of the courage to retain principles of justice in the face of danger and the confidence that it is an ideology which will always prevail over seductive alternatives". It is not easy, it is elusive but all the more precious for that.

This is an important book. If we're not careful, we won't know what we have until it's gone.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Jun 2009, 21:49:07 BST
SAP says:
Dizzy, I was thinking of choosing this book. But it's just as well I didn't as I don't like thinking so much. How are you?

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jun 2009, 06:41:41 BST
Diz says:
Hello HR -

I am well, thank-you, especially after this work-out! There's nowt like mental press-ups to work up an appetite :-).

And how are you? Happy, I hope :-)

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jun 2009, 11:20:38 BST
SAP says:
I'm not in the mood for 'deep' books at the moment. After I read a few I need to rest for a few months.

Am I happy? Is the Pope Catholic?

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jun 2009, 17:35:31 BST
Diz says:
Well, I'll take your word on that last one.

I am now recovering by reading 'Small Gods' by Terry Pratchett - for the third time :-) All about the Great God Om, who is actually a one-eyed tortoise and not very happy about it. Helps keep things in perspective, y'know.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jun 2009, 18:13:24 BST
SAP says:
The happy bit or the Pope's religious affiliation?

The next tome on my to-read pile (it's a HUGE pile) is 1434 by Gavin Menzies, the sequel to 1421. Its central thesis is controversial and/or untrue. I've never read any Terry Pratchett before. Do you recommend him?

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jun 2009, 20:24:28 BST
Diz says:
Have you ever sat next to the loony on the tube who giggled insanely and nearly fell off her seat? Well, that was me reading Terry Pratchett.

So after 1434, I suppose you'll get to 1447 and then 1460 and then 1473... - going to take a while to get to 2012. Will you have time?

I assume you are happy, therefore I assume that the Pope is Catholic. Must be weird being Universal all the time - no time for yourself, really. Perhaps being a one-eyed tortoise isn't so bad, after all.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Jun 2009, 17:33:28 BST
SAP says:
Many a time, many a time...

I think the end of civilisation will have occurred before I get past 1789, alas.

I AM happy! Always. Because I'm worth it...
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