Liberty Hall

I’m confused – I must be, because I really don’t understand this at all. I usually like Polly Toynbee (not that I read everything she writes), but this seems to me to be a very odd thing to say:

The countrysiders in the Lords will oppose the hunting bill again, but others will oppose it for good liberal reasons – proving the need for a second chamber. Liberals should always be wary of banning people from doing as they like. There needs to be an overwhelming case for the serious harm done: hunting just doesn’t meet that criteria (killing a few foxes is not more cruel than battery farming).

Wait – what? ‘Liberals should always be wary of banning people from doing as they like.’ But isn’t that awfully sweeping? ‘Doing as they like’? Doesn’t that cover an awful lot of ground? Underpaying and mistreating employees, abusing children, driving dangerously, vandalising parks or libraries, threatening or stalking people? And all sorts of things. People get banned from doing as they like all the time. Obviously. What does she mean ‘overwhelming case’, what does she mean ‘serious harm’? Overwhelming according to whom, serious by whose measure? My point isn’t about fox hunting, it’s about the generalization itself. I don’t think there should be some presumption that people should be allowed to ‘do as they like’ – it depends very much on what it is they like. Ah well – I must be confused.

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