China sounds good. Ruari Clark in the Free Society:
Anyone interested in civil liberties should come and live in China. But not for the reasons you might suspect. If you do you’ll leave thinking life in Britain leaves much to be desired.
Yes, China is a one party state. Its citizens – subjects is probably a more accurate term – have few if any political freedoms. Nobody suggests this should be replicated in Britain. But the lack of political freedom is accompanied by a refreshing freedom from the repressive and absurdly irritating policies of the British nanny state. A paradox certainly, but true nonetheless.
Smoking is the most obvious example. If I want to light a cigarette in England I have to do so hidden down a manhole lest a passer-by think I’m infringing their ‘right’ to clean air. (Come to China and tell me you have that right.) The very thought of smoking one of my noxious tobacco products indoors would ostracise me from nearly every social situation. Don’t you know passive smoking kills?
If I drop my finished fag in Britain I run the risk of being fined £80 or sent on a ‘re-education’ course. In China, when I open a pack of cigarettes, twenty lighters are held to my face by expectant pedestrians. For some reason people seem to want me to smoke. Maybe it’s because they can see that as an adult I’ve decided to buy a perfectly legal product. Shocking.
No smoking bans here. Be it bar, restaurant or club, nobody minds the odd light up. Indeed the only place I’ve seen an enforced ‘No Smoking’ sign was in a plush hotel catering for Westerners (one form of cultural imperialism the Left don’t give a damn about).
Ashtrays are helpfully provided nearly everywhere and even if I do have to drop a fag end in the street nobody cares because, guess what? It’s not a big deal. Then again it might have something to do with the thousands of people the Chinese have sweeping the streets day and night…
I wasn’t quite sure whether to believe this, so had a look at Wikipedia’s Smoking in China, which confirmed that China hasn’t done much about implementing the provisions of the FCTC treaty it signed up to in 2005. I suppose it must be harder to bully China than most other countries.
And I hope that they never get round to implementing socially-divisive and economically-destructive (and wholly-unnecessary) smoking bans. Because right now, China is a freer country than Britain, at least in respect of smoking bans – which is how I now measure freedom.
If you can sit in a bar and drink a beer and smoke a cigarette, you’re in a free country. And if you can’t, you aren’t. Everything else – democracy, parliaments, bills of rights, etc – is entirely academic. Freedom isn’t some sort of fuzzy abstraction. Freedom is something concretely and personally experienced – sitting in a bar, drinking a beer, and smoking a cigarette. And once that freedom has gone, all freedom has gone.
On 7 July 2007, the day the UK smoking ban came into force, outside the River a complete stranger came up to me and said: “It’s not a free country any more.”
And he was quite right.
And he’s still right today.
And he’ll continue to be right until it is once again possible to sit in a bar and drink a beer and smoke a cigarette.