Ban on smoking in cars: liberal individualism is a threat to individual liberty

Edmund Burke warned us: “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their appetites.” In other words, freedom is a privilege that can only be sustained and deserved if we use our freedom to ensure the well-being of others. Freedom has never been, nor could be, a charter for selfishness, without itself being destroyed.

A vote will be taken today on an amendment that has been tabled to the Children’s and Families Bill by Labour Peers to ban smoking in cars when children are present. This isn’t the first time this idea has been proposed, and it will have cross party support in the Lords as the last attempt was a Private Members Bill introduced by Conservative Lord Ribeiro in 2012. The health arguments against exposing children to smoke -and of course the everyone is at risk – are well rehearsed, and neatly summarised here by the BBC. It is worth reflecting however why we need this law.

Much as I recoil from the thought of more legislation to dictate our behaviours, I also accept that we have brought this on ourselves. Over the past few decades we have seen the rise of liberal individualism and mistakenly seen it as an expression of, rather than a threat to, individual liberty. We have been blinded by the entitlement of choice, rather than seeing through to the consequences of choosing. What remains important is not choice per se, but what we choose, and unless we make choices for the common good we delude ourselves that we can remain free. As the brilliant former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks expanded in his ‘Politics of Hope‘, freedom is a moral achievement; it rests on self-restraint and regard for others.

The freedom to protect our children simply because it is the right and moral thing to do has been abused, so it is only right that legislators now step in to enforce the right of children to be protected from smoke.


About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social pioneer, writer, campaigner and commentator. Formerly a clinical optometrist specialising in diabetes and visual impairment, she is the founder and Director of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal and Social. 2020health has through research, events and campaigning influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. In 2014, 2020health were founding partners of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Since 2016, 2020health has increasingly focused on digital health and public health in the community. Julia is a Fellow of the RSA and now also a part-time PhD student at the UCL Interaction Centre, studying the use of digital technology for stress management in the workplace. Julia has shared 2020health's research widely in the media (BBC News, ITV, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions & Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Radio 4 Today, PM and Woman's Hour, LBC) and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week.
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2 Responses to Ban on smoking in cars: liberal individualism is a threat to individual liberty

  1. Jerry Brown says:

    This idea is akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic – it seems important at the time but, really, it’s irrelevant. Poor diet, inadequate housing, shattered families, a disturbed and directionless education system and a growing divide between the rich and the poor are behind much of the ills in our society. Stopping mums and dads having a fag in the car will address only one tiny, tiny, tiny, barely-relevant piece of the jigsaw that is poor outcomes for our children. Let us, instead, in my humble opinion, bang on about things that would effect more change; allowing the building of more social housing, undoing the hugely expensive privatisation measures in Health and Justice, the despicable behaviour of making Service Personnel redundant just days before their pension is achieved. I’d very much like to see our political leadership able to hold their heads up with pride because of their integrity – but I do not think I should hold my breath waiting.

  2. Pingback: I’ll rule the world someday | Melanie's Life Online

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