Enlightenment Values, not ‘British’ Values

Enlightenment Values, not ‘British’ Values

Whilst there are many values to be drawn from the Enlightenment there is no consensus in favour of the many principles born during the Enlightenment. Some of these principles divide along ideological lines too plainly and can cause conflict where conflict is unnecessary; therefore I have selected ideas and principles that the plurality of people can agree on regardless of your particular ideology or school of thought. This will be a necessary compromise for a constitution that’s aim should first and foremost be to protect the people of Britain.


I’m defining the Enlightenment as a period in time which saw the rise of reason and science and a breakdown of the Ancien regime. The period that saw basic concepts like democracy, liberty and freedom enter public discourse and led to further enfranchisement of the population and new rights previously unheard of in Western Europe.

EDIT: Whilst this is ideologically broad and most tend to agree on these sorts of things, hearing things like this do make me a bit worried as to the extent my rights are protected:
and if you don't like the Guardian well here you go:

My apologies for sourcing two quite political papers.

·        Freedom of Expression - the right to express yourself (through your views, culture or identity etc.), with the duty not to advocate violence. Very disagreeable views may be expressed, but so long as they are not slanderous or encouraging violence, we have a right to freedom of expression, as well as a responsibility to ensure that freedom of expression does not conflict with other rights, such as the right to life. Advocating violence would constrain and contradict that right, which is why the distinction must be made. Offensive views may be expressed, no matter how repugnant.

For example: A hate group such as the Westboro Baptist Church speaks out against LGBT people and US soldiers, no matter our disgust of their views in a free society we must tolerate their hate and respond not with violence or coercion, but with well reasoned counter argument, using our freedom of expression as a response.

What does this include?
Opinions, ideologies, religion, thought clothing, culture, argument, discussion, criticism, satire, humour, hate, comedy, praise, dismissal etc.
The main exclusion being advocating violence

Further reading: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/your-right...m-of-expression

  • The Right to Life - The right to food and water, freedom from state sponsored violence (authoritarianism) and the right to pursue your own goals (career, personal development, family etc.). This is a mixture of positive and negative liberty, protection if your life is at risk and freedom from coercion to develop yourself and your live your own life freely. The only time this may be constrained is if your right to life infringes someone else’s right to life.

For example: If person A murders person B, person A’s right to life will be restricted through imprisonment, some rights will be restricted as this person will not be allowed to go freely, they must be kept out of the public until rehabilitated. Prison however is not an excuse of harsh treatment and a removal of human rights, absolute privacy and freedom to move must be constrained however, the right to vote and right to education which come under the right to life must remain.

What does this include?
The right to free education, the right to work, the right to pursue a hobby, freedom from torture, freedom from violence, the right to marriage, freedom of movement, the right to that which is necessary for life (food and water), the right to privacy, the right to a free and fair trial, freedom from capital and corporal punishment, the right to a jury, freedom from conscription, the right to be innocent until proven guilty

Further reading:

  • Secularism - The separation of Church and state, freedom to your own beliefs and none. The idea that the state should not favour one religion over another and give certain privileges to religion over another or none. Religion is not a matter of the state to impose on its population; British citizens are free to have their own faith or none without state coercion and without state sponsoring of one religion, when religion is a purely private matter, separate from the state.

For example: The Church of England may not have unelected bishops appointed to the House of Lords and may not be declared the ‘state religion’ when Britain is a society with a plurality of faiths and none. No religion should be given special benefits above any other, and no religion should appear sponsored by the state.

What does this include?
This includes the right to believe in your own desired faith or none, freedom of thought, no monopoly of power of a particular religion, no obligation to attend a church or religious ceremony or pay a religious tax, the right to secular education, the right to a place of worship, local councils should cater for all religious festivals/holidays, the right to religious/philosophical/spiritual holiday, freedom of expression, the freedom of a child to select their own faith or none

Further reading and an attached video:

  • Tolerance – Tolerance is not necessarily respect as that is quite different, but the toleration of ideas, identities and people different from your own is key to ensuring a successful society. The promotion of coexistence between cosmopolitan communities of people with different, culture, religion, ideology, class, ability, gender and sexuality etc.

    The tolerance of an opposing ideology by restraining oneself from committing violence, or from advocating violence. A duty to use reason and be civil rather than to hate when engaging and opponent.

It is our duty as rational thinkers to be reasonable people and show restraint and be logical, it is not a requirement though, but a value that should be considered. Restraining oneself from violence and coercion is however required under this principle and constitution.

For example: Instead of advocating that all fellow liberals rally against socialists, or to advocate violence against socialists (or indeed any group), it is a citizens duty to tolerate the existence of this different group, not necessarily to respect the group as you cannot be expected to respect a ideology or belief you fundamentally disagree with, but you must tolerate it/them.

What does this include?
Tolerance of differing: Ethnicity, gender, ability, sexuality, age, class, ideology, religion, belief, culture, origin, nationality etc.

  • Democracy – The right of the people of Britain to hold and exercise political power. Democracy is more than just voting once every 4-5 years, it is about the right to protest, to join pressure groups, to lobby, to express your views and be involved in decision making. Democracy requires that citizens be able to participate and that elected representatives and delegates be held to account and that measures exist to ensure accountability and scrutiny.

For example: John Smith votes in the 2015 general election, he regularly writes and receives correspondence from his local representatives, he is a member of a local antiwar pressure group that exercises elements of a general assembly, John regularly posts his views on civil rights online, John voted in the last referendum, and he is lobbying for animal rights, he also has publicly scrutinised his local MP for what he sees as not in the best interest for the local constituency.

Avoiding ideological disagreement:

How a democracy should function is widely disputed, from anarchists arguing for direct democracy with no government, to conservatives like Edmund Burke arguing for a representative democracy where trust is put into an elected official’s judgement, to those arguing for a more proportional representative democracy with mechanisms of accountability for such elected officials.

However a compromise can be met initially, this does not necessarily have to be encoded into the constitution, principles of democracy should be, but healthy conditions of a democracy are listed below:

What does a healthy democracy include?
The right for all people over the age of 16 to vote in local, regional, national and European elections (including expats, the imprisoned and none British citizens currently residing in Britain), freedom of thought and expression, the right to protest peacefully free from suppression, the right to strike, the right to stand in an election, the right to join a union, the right to join and participate in a pressure group or society, a form of proportional representation to be decided in referendum (e.g. MMPR, party list etc.)

When deciding whether someone should be allowed to vote or not, whether they are reasonable enough or intelligent enough or experienced enough, we often look at age, however great fault comes to this as age is not a good measure for intelligence and reason, but certainly is for experience. A 60-year old is more experienced than a 25-year old, however a 25-year old is more likely to be more aware of the dangers that climate change poses because of changes in the education system and the effects of the Age of Information (Age of the Internet) on the new generation. Enfranchising 16-year olds is encouraging political participation to a group just starting realise who they are and what they believe and really encourages critical thought, whereas many older voters may choose to vote traditionally. Age is no measure of ability and intelligence, many of our great scientific discoveries and many great artists are in their teens and twenties, many of our servicemen and servicewomen signed up at the age of 16, it is not fair to brand all young people as stupid or wreckless, just as it is not fair to brand all elderly people as racist and backward, people need to be judged on their character, all people are endowed with reason and 16-year old minds are really starting to develop in critical thinking.

EDIT: All people over the age of 16 should be allowed to vote, regardless of their experience, intelligence, ability or rationality. We do not need to paint all people of one group as 'unintelligent' or 'unable'. It is important to note cognitive development in 16 year olds, they are really starting to think critically and make informed decisions, I underwent drastic ideological shift in my teenage years and really began to question how I thought, political enfranchisment could trigger more young people to think about politics and think in critical ways.
Universal adulthood suffrage, stereotypes should not be made based on age etc.

Democracy as a principle is the right to express political power, whether petitioning a local representative or the government to peaceful protest. We can argue what a democracy should include, from regular referendum to decentralisation, but the principle of democracy itself is something I think we can all agree upon and democracy itself relies on the other principles listed.

A healthy democracy ought to be proportional rather than winner takes all, it is not as easy to count the votes nor is it as quick and yes coalitions will often be formed, but proportionality to the electorate is fairer as it ensures we do not have minority rule and written constitution protecting our right to life means we can never have a tyranny of the majority, a majority that would seek to remove the rights of other groups.


It is important to note how a constitution may not be entirely agreeable, but its aim is to protect all members in a society. Enlightenment thought of natural rights shows how all humans have these rights and they cannot be taken away by a dictator or by the electorate. The rights cannot be contradicted and you have the freedom from discrimination and not a right to discriminate. This document lists Enlightenment principles, not British principles that will protect all people resident in Britain from oppression and coercion via mixture of positive and negative liberties (the right to and freedom from).



The values above are to be codified laws, to protect the people in Britain. Our values are to be decided ourselves through our own reason, whether you find that value in a common identity, religion, or humanism. It is not in the state’s interest to select what your values are, but it is the state’s duty to protect your most fundamental rights, not to interfere with your lives or oppress and for the state to act in the interest of the people.

edited on Feb 22, 2015 by Kristopher Cussans
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