Seriously, what am I complaining about? No one forces me to live in Britain. I came voluntarily 5 years ago. I came because I was deeply fed up with the political system in Germany. Germany is a country in which almost everyone is a more or less consistent statist. People love things to be very organised over there, and of course the wet dream of every organisation junky is a giant monopoly on organisation, in other words a state. Like every statist society, Germany is heading for a giant economic disaster. Today, over 50% of the population in this allegedly most productive economy in Europe gets their income out of taxpayer money. That means that the point of no return has long passed. The worst thing however is that Germany has a very bad debating culture. There are all kinds of taboos and words that must not be mentioned in any debate. Doing so anyway will result in the immediate and permanent exclusion from public debate. In many cases, it can even get you into jail. One of these taboos is that you cannot say publicly that you are in favour of free markets. There is a classical liberal party in Germany that is currently part of a coalition in Government. They are of course really social democrats, but the public perceives them to be hyper capitalists. Although there are some classical liberals in the party, you will never hear any representative in the party publicly saying that he is supporting free markets. It would be political suicide to do that. It is this debating culture that in my persuasion will prevent Germany to learn something from their mistakes. I guess the Germans are doomed to destroy the country every few decades. It is almost like a tradition now.
So I came to Britain. However, I came here not because I was under the illusion that this is a libertarian country. Far from it. It was always clear to me that the British welfare state is no better than the German one. This country is even far more advanced on there way to economic breakdown. While Germany still has a bit of time left before they have to stop dreaming and acknowledge that the welfare state is not working, Britain will face its economic breakdown most likely in the next few years. There are now increasing signs that all the printed money of the BOE is slowly finding its way into the economy. From here, it cannot be long until the game is over.
But there is one thing about the english speaking world that is very positive. It has a quite good debating culture. Although there are developments to outlaw certain opinions, the threshold for getting into jail is still relatively high. There is a deeply routed feeling for fairness in this culture. It seems unreasonable to not at least give people of other opinions the microphone. That is not to say that every opinion is treated equally, far from it. Everyone that is voicing an opinion outside the mainstream will be under heavy and often unfair attack. It is also not the case that everyone gets equal speaking time. But at least everyone can voice their opinion. I believe that this is a decisive advantage, because once things go bad and people naturally become open minded for alternative opinions, the right opinions can be found. In Germany however, if people were to question the status quo, the only alternative opinions they will find are even more statist, socialist opinions and that is what they are going to get. The english speaking world also has an advantage that at least the rhetoric is very much in favour of freedom and markets. So although things in the short run will almost certainly going to get much, much worst, I am quite optimistic in the long run. That is at least what I thought until now.
However, since I live here, I increasingly realised that there are many issues that seem to be significantly worst in England. It immediately became clear that there is a massive health and safety tyranny going on. It started with the irritating observation that many people in Bournemouth, where I moved to study a one year MA were wearing security vests. Someone seemed to have talked a lot of proper adults into believing that if they do not wear these vest, there is a significant chance of getting hit by a car. Very weird I thought, but at least their own choice. However, I was about to find out that you often do not have a choice. Health and safety has become an essential part of everything you do in this country. You want normal electricity in your bathroom, sorry cant do that, health and safety. Buikd a second door in your vocal booth in order to make it more soundproof, sorry health and safety. Heck, I even had to do a two hour health and safety course to join the student Big Band as a drummer, an instrument that I am playing for over 20 years. The idea of safety, although in itself not necessarily a bad thing has in a political context always been the arch enemy of liberty. And in the name of safety the British state does not stop at a little harassment in going about your everyday life.
Something that is very obvious and that always really bothered me is the fact that the British public seems to like surveillance. I got a taste of that even before I arrived in the country. Universities tend to offer international students a guaranteed place in their own student accommodation. This is a tempting offer, given that you are moving to a foreign country. You don’t know the local customs and you already have to organise a lot of other stuff. So this seemed to make life easier and I looked into it. The brochure praised that all accommodations had 24hr CCTV. I found that very irritating, because I could not figure out why you would want to be watched like that. In fact it was one of the major reasons why, in the end I did go through the extra hassle of finding private accommodation. However, the British public does not seem to think twice about CCTV. Not only in private hands, but astoundingly even in the hand of the government. London is almost under complete surveillance of CCTV. Not only do you have cameras on every corner watching the movements of people, you also have cameras automatically scanning the number plates of cars. One argument one might have against the idea that this is a threat is that all this collected information cannot possibly be analysed. But this argument is increasingly weak, since modern face recognition software is getting better and better. This allows the system to automatically trigger an alarm, when it spots a person that is on a watch list. In addition to CCTV the public transport system, which almost everyone in London uses has been switched to an electronic ticketing system called oyster. Oyster stores any movement of the oyster card holder. People who still want to enjoy the anonymity of cash are punished with an almost 100% higher fee compared to oyster. All this is happening in the name of security. However, one has to asked security of what? All this surveillance has been proven to be largely inefficient to prevent crime. What mostly prevents real crime is of cause the ability to defend yourself. Astonishingly this is almost illegal in this country. It is almost impossible to even posses let alone carry any form of firearm. But not only that, even purely defensive weapons like pepper spray, an item that I have literally seen being sold in a toy store in Germany is illegal. The reason for these things being illegal is, you guessed it health and safety. That means there is now a situation in this country in which everyone is surveilled all the time on the one hand and is totally helpless on the other. A horrific combination, should the wrong people get into power. The worst thing of all is, the wrong people might already be in power.
This is what bothers me the most about this country. It does not seem to cross people’s mind that this could ever happen. Tyranny only happens in other countries, but never at home. In this respect I more and more getting the impression that this is probably the most statist society on the planet. How right this impression seems to be shows the current reaction of the public to the truly horrific revelations by the US whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Surveilling public space is one thing and bad enough. However, the leaks reveal that the government is working on a complete surveillance of the society. The worst of all governments in this respect seems to be the British one. They are working on trying nothing less than “mastering the internet”. Every interaction online is being monitored and stored. This includes the automatic reading of all private emails. But of course the internet is not enough. All phone communication is also stored and if the government wants to, it can listen in on every communication. What is going on in this country at the moment is making Orwell look like an optimist and the Germany STASI as amateurs. Britain under these plans looks a lot like a human zoo in which people are constantly watched like caved animals. There is simply no privacy left. All you can hope for is to slip under the radar. Reality seems to have topped the worst case scenarios of surveillance critiques. People under surveillance start altering their behaviour in favour of the wished behaviour of the people behind the cameras. Critical journalism and true opposition becomes impossible.
And what is the reaction of the British public to all this horror? People more or less shrug their shoulders. Quite astounding actually in a country that otherwise seems to put a lot of value on privacy. People even rightfully oppose the in comparison far less harmful ID cards. When Murdock hacked into the phones of celebrities, hell broke lose. But when the government is doing it, the reaction seems to be “I am sure they have good reason to do so”. The Guardian is trying hard to push the story, but it is hardly picked up by any other newspaper. The opposition is absolute silent. The public in most other countries seems to really been worried about these things. Even the US public, normally very unpolitical seem to slowly wake up and have a real debate about surveillance. Just in Britain, the worst surveillance government of all, the public seems to be asleep. Even now that it comes out how the government bullied the guardian into submission and tried to intimidate the journalist Glenn Greenwald by targeting his family, the public outrage seems very limited.
I am quite shocked by this behaviour. I really feel like leaving the country because of this. Maybe a country in which the government is weaker and the people do not trust it, like many countries in south america would be better. A society that is so passive, even in the face of a total loss of freedom has no bright future.