‘Freedom’ is a Dirty Word – Being a Libertarian in the United Kingdom


I often find myself feeling jealous of the wealth of libertarian sentiment in the United States. Whilst libertarians might not be the majority, there are certainly more of them there than are here in the United Kingdom.

Freedom in the UK is a very sensitive issue; I think this is largely because we have so little of it. For example, most Americans would be appalled to learn that in the UK you need to buy a television license in order to legally watch any TV channel, with all the proceeds jammily accumulating in the British Broadcasting Corporation’s bank account. Where I live in the city of Bristol, rather than invest in adequate parking facilities for a rapidly expanding city, local government are instead making residents buy permits to park their own cars on their own streets. They have even cut the speed limit through the city centre to 20mph, instead of updating our transit system.

I look around at my country, and I see a nation in dire need of freedom, but very few of my fellow Brits agree.

We have a National Health Service that we like to say is the envy of many nations, when, in fact, we have an epidemic of negligent medical mistakes, doctors on strike for months on end, unhelpful and dismissive medical advice, and laughably-outdated methods of treatment.

We have a welfare state we like to say is the envy of many nations, but it acts as a trap for the underclass, keeping enough food in the belly of the uneducated and unemployed to keep them hooked on a system of inequitable privilege that rewards a lack of effort to the point where people are undergoing Pavlovian conditioning without even realising it. And don’t even get me started on the schools; every truly brilliant imagination I’ve ever known has struggled to conform with the restrictions of the state school environment, let alone flourish within it.

So, why is freedom such a dirty word here in the UK? Do we really believe that without these regressive and restrictive institutions we would descend into chaos? Or is it something else?

My belief is that much of the drive for statism within the UK is our latent need for legitimate ‘patriotism’ – a word even filthier than ‘freedom’. We as a people have become so disconnected from what it is to take pride in ourselves as contributors to our country, that we no longer see a need for love of our country. We are so ashamed of our colonial past that we rebuke all that is British. We actively try not to see ourselves as Britain. As far as most Brits are concerned, the government is Britain, and the government needs to fix all the things it has broken because it’s not our responsibility.

But it is our responsibility.

It’s our responsibility because we have to live in this mess. It’s our responsibility because it affects our families, our friends, our livelihoods and our quality of life, to live in a state of constant regulation and bureaucratic tyranny. We have become a country of adults asking other adults for permission to live our lives, as we have every right to live them, and that is what we really ought to be ashamed of. Our codependent relationship with the State is a nightmare and, even though breakups are difficult, we sorely need to end our self-destructive love affair with Big Government.

So, when somebody asks “Who will build the roads?” I say the same people who build them now: the British people. When somebody asks “Who will keep the power running?” I say the same people who are keeping the power running now: the British people.

We don’t have a competence problem; we have a self-esteem problem. The fact is we are already doing all the work. I just hope at some point soon we will believe in our own merit enough to demand what we are owed for the job. Freedom is not a dirty word. Freedom is the glorious responsibility we have towards ourselves. I can think of nothing I’d rather have.

* Kayleigh Nixon is a serial antagonist who is happiest when enraging people on the internet. She believes that internet trolls should have more rights than the government and wishes everybody would just shut up and get on with it.

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  1. You may not have a strong libertarian movement in the UK, but you have one of the greatest spokesmen ever in Daniel Hannan. Maybe you and he will be able to talk some sense into your neighbors!

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