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At least since the election of Mrs Thatcher's Conservatives in 1979, each new government has come to power promising to rebalance the relationship between the State and the citizen. Despite Blairite waffle about transcending the old choices, the issue has been where Britain should lie on the spectrum from pure laissez-faire to total state socialism.

Yet there is an older and more fundamental question about the relationship between State and citizen that is becoming an issue again: should citizens be subject to the rule of law or to the rule of men?

You probably think that this question was long ago answered in favour of the rule of law, that no one still believes state power should be deployed arbitrarily. Then you have not been listening to the Prime Minister. In a speech in Munich in February, David Cameron promoted what he called muscular liberalism: "A passively tolerant society says to its citizens, as long as you obey the law we will just leave you alone [...] But I believe a genuinely liberal country does much more; it believes in certain values and actively promotes them." 

In what I assume to have been a witticism, Mr Cameron said that one of the values he would use his arbitrary powers to promote was respect for the rule of law. He also mentioned democracy, gay rights and all the usual stuff. In fact, however, he has devoted himself to promoting other values by extra-legal means. 
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