Our Crack Tongue & Groove
Beware politicians selling freedom
How could anyone not embrace the notion of more freedom? It’s a word that is absolutely dripping with sunny vibes. Freedom means being able to do what you want, when you want, whether that’s staying up well past your bedtime, standing outside the Houses of Parliament bellowing “no Brexit!” every time you see Hugh Edwards doing a piece to camera, or walking the streets dressed like Rod Liddle (that Benson & Hedges infused mop of hair is so2014, but, hey, each to their own). Freedom is a particular buzzword with everyone on the right of the political spectrum. (When France opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the Republican Bob Ney loved freedom so much that he rewrote the menus of three congressional cafeterias. French fries were out; freedom fries were in.) If you don’t like freedom then you must want sharia law, right? Well, not exactly. The freedom that right-wingers tend to advocate has nothing to do with basic human rights. Indeed, it’s the Republicans and the Tories who have habitually thrown grit into the wheels of progress, particularly when it comes to laws protecting and advancing the causes of women, ethnic minorities and gay people. No, their freedoms are mostly to do with money, especially the freedom to keep a greater share of your pay packet. Again, who wouldn’t want that? But the upshot of that particular freedom is that there is less money for the government in the form of taxes. Former US President Ronald Reagan was sanguine about this: one of his most famous quotes is: ‘The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ Reagan didn’t want the government to help anyone, that is, to provide healthcare, education and social security. He thought those sorts of needs should be met by big business. We’ve seen countless examples of that in this country with government increasingly stepping away from essential services. We now have private companies running care homes, prisons and sexual assault centres. So, be on your guard when you hear anyone on the right talk about freedom. It is, more often than not, just a code for cutting taxes, more privatisation and the further vandalisation of social security. Of course, the rich lap it up – they love a tax cut. But go and ask a single mother, who is trying to juggle two zero-hour contract jobs – and struggling with the closure of her local Sure Start centre, and wondering how she’s going to pay the bills now that her in-work benefits have been cut – exactly how free those tax cuts for the rich have made her feel.