Jonathan Eida | Opinion
The world is often seen as a picture, when in fact it is a movie – one must only see where we are headed. It is very easy to support one action in isolation, but seeing the results down the line is a much harder feat. Very small shifts in public perceptions can create precedents that can have unforeseen consequences, which at the original time are neither fully appreciated nor understood.
The increasing acceptance of letting the government dictate different aspects of our lives should be worrying. Ever since the Thatcherite administration, which held individual choice above all else, successive governments have been eroding personal freedoms without any thought to the consequences. This continued nibbling has fed the government to such an extent that it has been allowed to become a progressively powerful beast.
The reality is that power either resides with the people or with the institutions. When the power pendulum swings towards one side, it will see itself moving further from the other as a consequence. Finding the balance to avoid tyranny or anarchy is essential if we are to preserve rights, while also maintaining a structured society in which people can achieve.
Two events over the past week have exemplified how the government is continuing to increase its control over citizens, however unintentionally.
The first instance is that of the infamous free school lunches during the summer holidays. The case was made famous because of footballer Marcus Rashford’s involvement. He had written to Boris Johnson asking to provide money for the cause. Johnson, having previously said that he would not fund it, then reversed his decision. I do not for one moment doubt Marcus Rashford’s sincerity. I believe he saw, like most people, children who needed a meal and sought to ensure that they were fed.
However, herein lies the problem. It is very easy to be enticed by every situation the government jumps into to solve, without ever realising the magnitude of the decision. It is another classic example of the road to Hell being paved with good intentions.
In this particular example, the effects are twofold. Firstly, the issues surrounding the government consuming the role of the parents in the form of welfare have been expounded upon at great length by sociologists such as Charles Murray. In his work “The Underclass”, he detailed the effect that welfare projects would have on people who were the beneficiaries of excessive welfare, essentially trapping them in a never-ending cycle.
However, perhaps the greater issue at hand is the principle created by the government’s decision. The government has now set a precedent where it is seen as their job to feed children all across the country, even outside of term time. This role has been and indeed should be the job of their parents. The government’s role should be to set up a system that gives parents the opportunity to pay for lunches themselves, namely by creating a business-friendly economy that provides jobs. While this may not seem like a monumental shift in itself, it does beg the question: to what extent does the government have a right to play a role in the lives of children and where will it end?
This question was compounded by a further revelation that came to light over the past few weeks. A video recording was released by The Sun, which showed a Labour Councillor who also happened to be a teacher, expressing her concern that, because schools are currently closed, she and her peers could not protect children from the “far-right” views that they were hearing “daily” at home.
Now, this woman is a public servant, on two counts. It is apparently her belief that it is the job of teachers, not parents, to transfer values to their children. One can be forgiven for being reminded of Communist re-education camps! There has long been a concern with regards to academia that students are being indoctrinated, and this video merely confirmed that.
On that topic, the recently-sacked Shadow Education Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, was also shown in The Express to have instructed union leaders to “politically educate” the new members they were gaining in light of the coronavirus crisis.
The government has control over our children’s education, too, in the form of creating a syllabus. The government could, at any time, include new topics or modules in the syllabus that run contrary to the wishes of parents and, with Ofsted at their heels, those schools that are obliged to follow the National Curriculum would have no option but to cave in to the government, against the wishes of the parent body. Judging by the Labour Councillor’s comments, if power were to fall into her hands, we should all be far more afraid!
For good or for ill, one must realise the extent to which the government has control. The power of our children’s education is completely in their hands. When confronted with this power, it is our duty to be sceptical and continue to hold them to account.
Other governmental institutions also create the same power dilemma. The NHS, for all its great attributes, has given the government vast amounts of control over our private habits. Without the NHS, the existence of the sugar and alcohol taxes would be very questionable. On libertarian grounds, one would have been able to argue that the rights people have over their bodies are their own, with that such taxes being an encroachment upon their personal decision-making. However, under a system where the taxpayer bears the brunt of their neighbour’s bad decisions, it becomes the job of government to ensure that people don’t cause a strain on the system – hence the implementation of various taxes.
So, as we began with, life is a movie and not a picture. Each stage by itself may not seem revolutionary, but the destination we end up at may well bear some similarity to a number of those revolutionary Communist regimes. Lots of small steps would lead us to the same place as the large steps, but through more subtle means. I fear this is the direction we are slowly heading in, without being fully aware of that reality.