Monday, 28 April 2014

The failure of the rule of Law

In building laws we seek to enforce a deeper sense of what is good and moral about the world. Personal freedom and respect for human life (ones own and that of others) come together to form things like traffic laws, speed limits and so on.

Yet the problem with laws is that they are specific, they have to be! And there lies their Achille's heel! Nobody can predict all the situations in which a law is applicable and nobody can enforce all the laws all the time. It's really a constant battle between the ingenuity of people to find new loopholes and ways to circumvent the law and lawmakers trying to patch the law to make it applicable in new unforeseen situations and of law enforcement agencies to keep up with the ingenuity of people trying to avoid the law.

Companies like Goldman Sachs (situation in Greece) become adept at finding new loopholes in the laws; finding ways of doings things in contradiction with the spirit of the law but not with its letter!

Ultimately this situation leads to an ever increasing number of laws, which then require an ever increasing number of people to understand and apply the law, leaving those for whom law isn't their business faced with an ever more impossible task of keeping up with the ever increasing number of laws. Ultimately their will be too many lawyers and too many laws. Crippling society and grinding the whole system to a halt!

In the end what we need is not so much the law as the spirit of the law. Although we can't define all the instances where personal freedom would be infringed, we can quite easily decide on a case by case basis when personal freedom was infringed, and the situation can be corrected depending on whether there was foreknowledge, premeditation etc The problem with this line of thinking is that it requires a much stronger internal sense of right or wrong and a much stronger sense of responsibility than people are willing to accept. it's much easier to hide behind a law book saying 'I followed the law'. Ultimately it's a cowardly attitude, yet one we see everyday! Legalised corruption, legalised slavery, legalised abuse, legalised drug-pushing etc ... We all bow down to the huge monster that has become the law, forgetting the spirit of the law even when we wake up at night with the absolute certainty a wrongdoing was committed, yet no law was broken. Inversely we see regularly situations were a law was broken but no wrong was committed yet the person will be judged and sentenced for breaking a law while doing no wrong .. or maybe even good!

How long is the Law Monster going to carry on its march in the face of greater and greater demonstration of its tragic misdoings!

The dream of an egalitarian society

The dream of an egalitarian society is deeply engrained in the human psyche; whether we believe it's possible and strive for it or whether we believe it to be an utopia to be rejected, it still fascinates us.

The egalitarian idea runs deep and human societies have tried many times to make it a reality, but it has never succeeded. Why is that? Why do we yearn for this egalitarian society? Could it ever work in practice?

First, it's easy to notice that societies which have tried an egalitarian system have failed. The most striking example of that comes in the form of the fall of communism. Millions died, were persecuted, sent to the goulag in the name of the idea of an egalitarian society. Such horror and misery in the name of such a noble idea!

Sadly, modern studies show us that the egalitarian idea don't survive our birth. We are born different: different intelligence, difference physical stamina, different height etc. Add on top of that the fact that we live in different countries with different climates, then it becomes quite clear that we do not start equal.

Even more distressing is the realisation that were we ever able to produce an egalitarian society at birth it would not last. If we imagine for a second an egalitarian society, where everybody was born with the same chance at a given time in history. Climatic difference between different part of the world would quickly mean people would have different access to food and shelter, already creating different environments some more auspicious to developing intelligent and physical abilities. These traits would be reinforced from generation to generation as studies have shown that these traits tend to be inherited. It is easy to see that even if a equal society would not remain so past a few generations.

The inescapable conclusion is that egalitarian society is a dream, a fiction of the imagination to be discarded with the dreams of childhood. But is that entirely true? Why is it that this idea generates so much fascination?

Lets go back to the idea of egalitarianism, 'everybody equal', such a lofty concept which during its fall from abstraction became 'everybody has the same rights, the same chances in life, the same opportunities, same wealth, same advantages ... ' what if the fall from abstraction was the problem! And what if we decided not to bring it down to such material considerations? What if we went back to consider the original idea again! The idea that everybody  - despite all our differences - are equal in some way. Then the correct translation of that notion into a policy is Respect. We all have the right to respect, not to equal respect but to respect full stop. Respect is an absolute, it's either there or not, and we all deserve it.

Of course respect is harder to build into easily applicable rules for society. It takes a lot more discernement to be able to judge whether respect was properly given or not. Also respect is owned not only to humans, but we quickly realise respect is owed to all animals as well and then also to plants and finally to the whole planet! Respect is hard to measure, hard to access, yet we know when respect was not present, we feel it and the people involved know it as well. So it's harder to put in words but actually easier to see and hence easier to correct. (see why the 'Rule of Law will ultimately fail').

So lets go for an egalitarian dream of respect, a qualitative equality not of quantitative equality.