Laissez faire, laissez passer: Let people do as they please and go where they please. Are there nobler sentiments in politics? Yet the first is everywhere reviled, and the second is forgotten, which is all the more remarkable since it is far and away the most important of the two; without going about the earth in freedom all other actions are limited in their scope and kind.

Indeed, if this most crucial of the principles of liberty is forgotten one of the most far-reaching impositions of the state passes almost unobserved. Indeed, most would think that freedom of travel was obvious and secure, and some would cite the restriction of, for example, the 16th Century as a comparison. Certainly, relative to that time people are not only very much more able to be mobile but also at greater liberty to exercise their mobility; they have cars, bikes, access to planes and trains, and they are not restricted to their parishes or beaten back into them when they stray beyond those bounds.

But the access to mobility and the relative freedom masks the fact that because of taxes on transport fuel and vehicles people are vastly less mobile than they could be. The loss of opportunity and thus of wealth is unlikely to be small. Laissez passer, laissez faire.