What America can learn from Europe's confused quest for shared values

Rights and values are not the same thing...


In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks, the French government has moved to establish a draconian surveillance law that would chill speech even for members of the press. "Reporters Without Borders warns the bill would seriously compromise journalists' ability to protect sources, as well as their ability to quote or relay via visual media the statements of any group or individual deemed terrorist by the government," according to The New York Times. This is a direct curtailment of freedom in the name of security.

Something that at first seems similar is happening in Britain. Flush with victory, the Conservative party is out to reform speech and expression laws in accordance with its "one nation" view of governance. Speaking at the British National Security Council, Prime Minister David Cameron recently unveiled a scheme set to send shock waves through liberal Britain. Warning that a posture of official value-neutrality has "helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance," he promised his government "will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
James Poulos

James Poulos is a contributing editor at National Affairs and the author of The Art of Being Free, out January 17 from St. Martin's Press. He has written on freedom and the politics of the future for publications ranging from The Federalist to Foreign Policy and from Good to Vice. He fronts the band Night Years in Los Angeles, where he lives with his son.