A “free society” is one where the creative talent, energy and ambition of the people is free to fuel enterprise, innovation and achievement. A society where self-expression, individualism and self-determination is not stymied by the tyranny of the masses, bossy politicians and nannying State interference into our personal lives – both social and economic. Or as John Stuart Mill would have it – the individual should be free to do as (s)he wishes unless (s)he harms others.
Such a society would have gay people publicly living their lives with complete freedom to express themselves in ways that feel natural to them. Especially as this behaviour is not hurting others. Women would be free to follow their dreams whether it is family, professional or both. But this gay and female friendliness is an outcome and not a cause of a free society.
So in achieving this type of freedom we must be careful not to put cause and effect the wrong way round. This type of freedom is won by creating a society where tolerance and equality are valued in their own right – not because they have been legislated for.
Any legislation is a restriction of freedom and it should be used sparingly to prevent people doing harm to others.
Many people pre-suppose that legislation drives the changes in society that we want. i.e. politicians drive change.
It is similar to the view that marketing and advertising changes people’s buying behaviour.
In both cases the marketeers and the politicians are merely reflecting what society already wants. Politicians win votes by advocating policies in which society already believes. Marketeers are more successful when they create and promote products that their target market already desires.
So successful politicians merely grub for votes – reflecting back to the electorate what they already know they want. This is why they spend so much money on focus groups and opinion polls.
In a democratic society it is not easy to get legislation enacted and kept on the statute books if it is expressly against the wishes of the people. Think of the UK poll tax. And sometimes in opinion polls people express views that are not particularly strong. So successful legislation can appear to be against public opinion but only if the public has no strong views on the subject.
A free society allows freedom of speech and campaigns to educate, inform, debate and influence society regarding social change. These are far more effective in changing social attitudes than legislation that forces behaviour without necessarily changing opinions.
So it is not the legislation that drives change, it is the change that drives legislation. We could do without much of the legislation (which inhibits freedom and often has other unexpected and detrimental consequences) because society is already changing.
Fewer politicians, less state power and less legislation will only have the effect of creating a freer, less bureaucratic and therefore less expensive society. Social change will continue its own course regardless.