Liberty in the Age of Terror, By AC Grayling

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The Independent Culture

This is a surprisingly light "analysis" of the reduction in civil liberties that has taken place in this country since 9/11. I expected, if only from the subtitle – "A Defence of Civil Liberties and Enlightenment Values" – a more in-depth history of the Enlightenment than some mere casual references to Locke and Kant; individual chapters on tolerance, privacy and civil liberties, meanwhile, deserved more than a few pages. Part of the problem is that Grayling is more concerned here with opinion than history. Every polemic needs passion, but it also needs depth.

Grayling's premise, however, is infallible: of course the threat of terrorism has to be countered, but reducing our civil liberties to do so destroys those hard-won freedoms that took us out of the dark ages. Enlightenment values are too easily taken for granted, Grayling says, which is perhaps why so few of us are up in arms about "ubiquitous CCTV cameras" or the increase in detention without charge.

This might have worked better as an essay; it feels over-extended in book form.