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Saturday, February 17, 2007

RH: :Philosophy of Law all wrong and how to put it right

From: Robert Ho (ho3@pacific.net.sg)
Subject: RH: Philosophy of Law all wrong and how to put it right

View this article only

Newsgroups: soc.culture.singapore
Date: 2003-11-17 07:55:12 PST

RH: Having had about half a dozen tangles with the law, at the wrong end of the law, that is, I have ruminated about the nature of law and come to some surprising observations.

For instance, notice that law is fixatedly associated with punishment. In other words, the whole business of law is only to lay down what is NOT permissible, infringement of which draws a prescribed punishment.

Why should it be that way, or remain that way?

Why, for instance, can not law prescribe rewards for compliance with
the laws? After all, any psychologist will tell you that rewarding
good behaviour is far more effective in eliciting a desired behaviour
than punishing an infringement of a rule. The carrot, they say, works
better than the stick.

Even the statue of justice is a woman, a goddess presumably, carrying
a scale balance in one hand but a fearsome sword in the other. [She
wears a blindfold to indicate that she is impartial; but on our City
Hall and Supreme Court Buildings, if I remember right, she is NOT
blindfolded, which is very appropriate; next time you pass by, see if
I am right].

This one-sided emphasis on punishment thoroughly skews the whole
business of government, which is mostly about laying down the law and, of course, prescribing the punishment for any infringement of those laws.

For example, because of this, all leaders see themselves as Punishers, rather than as Encouragers. They spend all their lawmaking time devising punishments to, hopefully, fit all the various degrees of crimes that may be committed for any law they want to pass.

And then, having thoroughly sown the entire edifice of law with
copious declarations of what is not permissible, and the resulting
punishments thereof, leaders and governments devote the entire justice system to catching offenders, determining their guilt, and of course, laying on the punishment, which tends to be harsh in Singapore so that drug takers are forcibly interned in Drug Rehabilitation Centres, drug carriers are hanged, and many other offences have their offenders' buttocks split with a well-oiled rotan.

Think what could happen with a legal system that rewards good
behaviour as much as it punishes bad. That is, using both the carrot
and the stick.

For supreme 'good' behaviour that we want to encourage, we could give
medals, for example, in the US, giving say, the Congressional Medal of Honour to UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, for being Anglo-Saxon enough to volunteer his people into a war that had nothing to do with
anyone's security, let alone Britain's, a war that is a US naked grab
of Iraq's oil and strategic location.

Or, for another supreme reward for 'good' behaviour that we want to
encourage, we could give Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, another hefty
pay rise of a million or two. Oh, I forgot, he already gave himself a
'salary' of S$2 million or so. [I put a quote mark on the word
'salary' because the ordinary meaning means 'payment for work done'
which is not the case of Lee, since he has hardly done any work for

You get the drift. Reward people for good behaviour. Like income tax
deductions for every year that they remain crime-free. Even a road tax reduction if you did not even get a parking ticket that year.

This could translate to outright cash gifts or National Vouchers
[think of a slicker name, please, readers] for sports heroes who won
big games for the country, etc, with smaller incentives for smaller
organisations like clubs, etc. Or the scientist who invented a nifty
gadget that saves lives in hospitals. Or recognition for a Mother
Theresa. [Need not be money because there're tonnes of other rewards
than money].

Wow! This could change society dramatically. This could change the
nature of government. From seeing itself as keeper of the laws to
encourager of all that is best in human nature.

Instead of keeping eyes peeled for infringers, this new law under this new philosophy will keep its eyes peeled for do-gooders. Before we know it, we could have a society of polite, considerate, even
altruistic people that each and every subsequent generation will grow
up to be, even if this present generation is a write-off.

Human nature itself could change. And, with it, the world. Did someone say that "to change the world, begin with yourself"? Before you know it, we'd all be fighting [oops, wrong word?] to be last through the door: "After you", "No, after you, please".

Children would grow up knowing that good guys win something. Schools
will be founts of encouragement where good behaviour will constantly
be proven to be better in the long run, than short-term rule-breaking

We'd all believe in Heaven again. And no priest need dwell on the
other destination.

This "emphasise the positive, not the negative" approach will be
difficult to bring about because for too long, since that idiot Moses
brought down 10 rules, law is all about the bad in people, not the
good. God should have given him other tablets. So, it was God's
original mistake. Any wonder that weak-minded non-thinkers like Lee
Kuan Yew tried to be God by being sadistic, thinking that this is

Of course, changing the world before dinner [apologies to the
PowerPuff Girls] is not done in this one posting or two. I have
planted the seed. Future generations can grow it with water and manure -- both very necessary - meaning arguments for and against.
Philosophers and lawyers and judges and lawmakers and most
importantly, people, real living breathing people, will want to put
their collective thinking caps on and see how it could work.

Who knows, when the best and most complete exposition is made, and it
is deemed a good act, the expositor may get a reward as encouragement, too?

Robert Ho
17 Nov 03
UK 1549 Singapore 2349