In this month's Reason magazine, we learn that an English chap called Brian Seaton got in a bind with the law for forgetting a Swiss Army knife in his luggage when checking in for a flight to go on vacation. The police in Leicestershire charged him with "possessing a knife in public without good reason".
It took Mr. Seaton nine months and ten thousand quid to clear his name.
The kicker: the Swiss Army knife in question was a retirement gift from his employer of more than twenty years...the Leicestershire Police Department.
In other news on the subject, the U.K. now has more than 20 percent of the world's CCTV cameras, even though it constitutes only 0.2 percent of the world's inhabitable land. In another article in the same Reason magazine (entitled "Tony the Nanny"), Brendan O'Neill lists the shameful accomplishments of Tony Blair in the field of civil liberties erosions. As of July 1st, smoking is banned in all pubs, clubs, and workplaces in the U.K., there are "anti-youth gadgets" installed in some public areas to drive away "loitering" youth by means of high-frequency noise, and the police have the right to issue so-called "Anti-Social Behavior Orders", where a police officer can forbid a citizen from walking on a certain street, using foul language in public, or even wearing a hooded sweatshirt, all without the need for proof of any guilt or misdemeanor.
The article closes to say that Blair's legacy is "life in a permanent state of parole" for the citizenry.
That, of course, is the only difference between the liberal utopists and the conservative ones: one group wants the government to be your mommy, the other wants it to be your daddy. You can bet your behind that someone in Washington has been taking notes on the accomplishments of Blair's New Labour in the field of public order, and those ideas are going to make their way over here sooner or later. And don't make the mistake to think that only the liberals are going to try a page out of Blair's playbook--there are plenty of so-called conservatives on this side of the pond who see nothing wrong with that kind of degree of surveillance and police authority, as long as they get to determine which kind of behaviors to suppress.