We must choose either fairness or freedom

ALTHOUGH we are becoming more connected, more empowered by digital devices and more able to control our lives with technology, we are also becoming more nannied, more kept by the state. Shouldn’t there be an alignment towards more freedom rather than a contrast between our personal and civic lives?

We spend our days listening to iPods, networking on Facebook, watching TV we’ve missed using services like Sky+ and TiVo, and managing our finances online.

But the British state – already an employer of millions of citizens – wants to manage our lives for us. It is introducing new regulation and legislation at an unprecedented rate, creating a “letter of the law” society, rather than one where the spirit of common sense and human goodness prevails. In short, it is reducing the need for personal initiative.

I call it “new feudalism”.

For me, the next election is all about whether we slip back into the shackles of new feudalism, or whether we decide – for once and forever – to be free.

Some would say I’m just being melodramatic, that the government just wants fairness for everyone. What a noble concept. How can you be against it?

I always wonder what to do when someone offers “fairness” as an objective. Is it fair that my chief technology officer at Ariadne has a Mensa-level IQ? Or that my sister is beautiful? Or that my cousin is disabled? Or that my friend lost a parent aged 10? Or that my uncle’s business is struggling?

What is fairness? And how can I engineer it?
There are some things that you can control in life, and others that you can’t. As the old adage goes, “God grant me the courage to change the things in my life that need changing, the patience to accept the things that don’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

In feudalism, there was an implicit contract between master and slave. The master would provide sustenance, while the slave would be owned by him. If you count the number of times you’ve heard people complain about what the government should do about this or that, rather than proclaiming “I’m going to do this, or that”, then you can see the slow creep of bondage.

We lose our freedom very slowly and then all at once. It starts with language which infiltrates the mind, and is disguised by a noble cause.

Don’t engineer fairness – engineer freedom. When people don’t have a state mechanism for abdicating responsibility for their fellow man, most of the people most of the time will be kind and fair to others.

Julie Meyer is chief executive of Ariadne Capital and a dragon on the BBC’s Online Dragons’ Den.