Subject: RH: Why Law is a disreputable subject
View: Complete Thread (2 articles)
Date: 2004-04-27 07:27:42 PST
1. I have ruminated again and will deign to pronounce my weighty
conclusions on the nature of Law and why it is a disreputable subject
unfit for study by good students.
2. To begin with, consider who makes laws?
3. The answer is, of course, Parliament. Or, Congress, in the US.
However, remember that Parliament, or Congress, consists of
politicians, elected often in total indifference to a huge minority or even a majority of their voters. And often elected by crook as much as by hook. With heavy donors to their campaigns often being able to put their interests first instead of the voters' interests.
4. In short, almost all politicians are corrupt.
5. This makes the laws that they pass, suspect, to say the least.
Corrupt politicians cannot be relied upon to pass laws good for the
country or the people. They can only be expected to pass laws that
keep them in power, as we have seen in Singapore, or that benefit
their campaign donors, as we have seen in the US. Thus, corrupt
politicians cannot pass good or intelligent laws.
6. This means that the entire edifice of law is bad. Since corrupt
politicians do not pass good laws, that is, laws good for the country
and its people, but only laws that perpetuate their power or enrich
themselves, law is a disreputable practice capable of great evil and
7. What little good that some laws do is entirely due to the
politicians' need to get re-elected. In Singapore, there has never
been such need and so, there has never been any good laws. Any 'good'
law in Singapore has been due more to the politicians' desire to
control and manipulate everything, rather than to do the right thing
or the thing good for the country.
8. Now, if almost all politicians are corrupt and cannot be expected
to pass good laws, then consider the nature of law-passing itself.
9. You will agree that most laws are little more than plasters to
stick to perhaps a deep societal wound, sore or condition. By that, I
mean that if the govt notices that there is too much litter, or
spitting, or toilet users not flushing the toilet after using it, it
passes a law outlawing such behaviour.
10. Thus, most laws are born out of a perceived need to outlaw
something or some acts. This is always a reactive act to a growing
social problem. Too many people jaywalking? Pass a law punishing it.
Drivers having accidents while talking on the handphone? Pass another
law. People taking drugs? Pass another law allowing for forced cold
turkey treatment in detention centres. Drug pushers? Pass another law
allowing for hanging them. Thus, most laws are reactive to current
problems. Most laws are little more than plasters to the societal
11. And over time, the whole body of law resembles a human body
covered with plasters all over, and about as effective or intelligent
a way of keeping the body in good health and vitality. Let alone
develop the body into a really fine specimen of life and meaningful
existence. Remember that most politicians are not lawyers and so, are
fully capable of passing bad laws, evil laws, and even illegal laws
that are sometimes overturned in court. Blair and LKY were lawyers but are just as incapable and unthinking as non-lawyers.
12. Thus, there are many bad, evil, wrong and even illegal laws in
almost every country except in totalitarian ones where no independent
judiciary exists to challenge such laws, or an intelligent public
question such laws. We have only to look at the laws that have been
overturned in court challenges and outdated laws that often need to be repealed in the light of current society, to realise that law as an institution, is far from perfect or even competent as an instrument of govt.
13. Since society is changing faster and faster, often with new
technologies, and law is always playing catch-up, being reactive
rather than anticipatory, this means that law is becoming less and
less competent for the proper regulation of society. We have only to
look at the business and accounting scandals of the big businesses in
the US in the past few years to see this.
14. Thus, as society grows more complex and change comes faster, new
institutions growing perhaps out of law or separately, may be needed
15. Thus, to recap the last few points, putting a law [plaster]
everytime there is a new problem [societal condition] means that there is no central vision [the whole body] in law, only a hotch-potch of plasters covering the body instead of a whole-body holistic solution or central vision. If there could be a central vision which then determines how the plasters and other treatments and ameliorations can be applied, the health of the whole body politic may be much improved.
15. To take another tack, consider the Constitution. This is the
closest to a central vision for law underpinning all laws passed by
Parliament. [Singapore does not really have a Constitution since the
PAP majority can and has changed it as easily as passing an
anti-spitting law, and with about as much debate or reverence].
However, the Constitution is usually a legalistic document and usually just another set of laws that may be repealed, amended, or added to, by Parliament exactly like any set of laws. As such, it does not provide for a central vision.
16. So, perhaps, for more democratic countries like the UK and the US and most EU countries, especially where there are flourishing 2-party democracies, a Sub-Constitution may be established. Or as many
Sub-Constitutions as there are real parties contending for majority
govt. There needs to be one for every party because there can never be total agreement on what the central vision should be. If there is
total agreement, then it is likely to be so basic that it would be
useless as a guiding vision.
17. This Sub-Constitution or central vision for each party, would be
simply amended by simple majority, unlike the actual Constitution,
which requires two-thirds majority. From this central vision would
flow all laws passed by the party in power, for example, whether to
nationalise industries or privatise them. Whether to foster
independent trade unions or favour companies. Whether to have free
medical care or partially or fully paid for by patients. Whether to
have free schooling up to university. Whether to have a totally free
media or some control. How and when to go to war. Etc.
18. These central visions would be a more permanent statement of each party's platform. A kind of permanent platform. They will not be party manifestoes because party manifestoes change too quickly and are subject to becoming mere election blandishments.
19. These central visions would be an instant summary of what
policies or set of policies a winning party would legislate for. While manifestoes would change quickly and tactically, these central visions would be more permanent and the party in power would have to be seen to legislate according to its central vision, hence the need to have it committed in a Sub-Constitution. If the incumbent party passes a law that can be demonstrated to be against its central vision, the courts may challenge it. Of course, some of the articles in central visions of opposing parties may be exactly the same. But there would be enough differences to tell quickly what each party stands for, and to hold that party to its central vision, by law, if necessary. Party manifestoes are often abandoned when the party gains power. This central vision would be harder to break. It also serves the useful purpose of distinguishing the parties, especially when the voters do not follow politics closely enough, like most voters everywhere.
20. In other words, the voters need only look, or be reminded of, the central vision of a party to know what they are voting for.
Manifestoes will then only be the steps to achieve the central visions and may be tactically devised to win elections. A party would have a Party constitution but once in power, it cannot be held to its
constitutional promises. It can even do the reverse of what its
constitution promises. However, the central vision, as a
Sub-Constitution, ensures that no legislation passed by the incumbent
party can go against it. The courts will ensure this since the
Sub-Constitution has the force of a Constitution subject to
interpretation by the courts.
21. If nothing else, this Sub-Constitution will clarify and simplify
politics. Politics today in almost all countries does not have a big
following even among the voters most affected by their govt. Apathy,
lack of time or interest are common everywhere. Also, most parties are becoming closer and closer in their policies often abandoning any
ideologies they may have started out with. This Sub-Constitution
should clarify and simplify the business of choosing a govt the voter
can live with and ensure the kind of legislation and thus government
he voted for.
22. It would also help to create a new political environment where
policies and issues are deciding factors instead of personalities. The Sub-Constitution will be the major electoral differences facing voters choice rather than personalities. It will therefore focus on
intellectual debates rather than personality attacks. Policies and
government rather than how a candidate appears and speaks. This can
only be good for voters, the govt, the country and ultimately,
23. The articles below are from earlier postings and are part of my
original thinking on the topic.
27 Apr 04
UK 1522 Singapore 2222
From: Robert Ho (email@example.com)
Subject: RH: Philosophy of Law all wrong and how to put it right
View: Complete Thread (2 articles)
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
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
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,
17 Nov 03
UK 1549 Singapore 2349
From: Robert Ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: RH: Expiry dates for all laws?
This is the only article in this thread
View: Original Format
Date: 2004-01-22 18:28:24 PST
From: Robert Ho (email@example.com)
Subject: Re: How sacrosanct are our laws ?
View this article only
Date: 2003-09-30 08:36:17 PST
firstname.lastname@example.org (SLICER) wrote in message news:
> Like all other ' current ' topics, the recent case of a youth
> executed for drug trafficking will be debated and as usual , the
> debate will fall into two groups. Was he really guilty or not
> One group would content - " well if he is guilty, then he should be
> punished, The other side would then counter arguing on the
> This would go on for a few days and then some other 'hot' news item
> takes center stage as replacement. There are umpteen number
> of cases which raises questions of a fundamental nature, if allowed
> The game starts all over again only when another similar case of
> justice or its miscarriage of it grab the headlines.
> The sad part of all this is that the REAL and FUNDAMENTAL issues
> are not addressed at all. They get to be ignored totally by the
> constant barrage of 'guilty or not guilty ? ', crime and
> punishment debate.
> What we should be asking ourselves is about the very basis of the
> laws that are on the statute books. We fail to do that all the
> As a nation we pay a heavy price for this ignorance.
> How are the laws enacted ?. Are they just written down into the
> books and decreed as laws, by force of unquestionable authority of > an omnipotent state ? - " This is the law, you better obey it or
> else ".
> If this is the case, then indeed, a big gaping flaw already exists.
> Laws are based on enshrined constitutional rights and principles.
> Which again takes its root from the principles of natural justice.
> They are subject to review and determined to see none of them
> violate the principles of natural justice or constitutional rights.
> Then again, it does not stop there. It becomes law only through
> a parliamentary nod. But the parliament must be duly elected body,
> through YES, a free and fair election, to grant it legitimacy in
> the first place.
> This is a very important part of the justice system.
> It is the root from which the secondary branches such as the legal > as well as the judicial system take their directions and guidance.
> A law is not sacrosanct, holy or final, unless it is thus vetted
> Over the past three decades, we have been brainwashed and beaten
> into accepting as our natural duty, whatever is shoved down our
> Even questioning the authors of these laws was considered illegal
> or not acceptable behavior. So like Pavlov's dogs, we have become
> used to telling ourselves " this is the law, we must accept it ".
> No further arguments, please.
> As long as these state of affairs continue, there is not much
> point in debating issues of 'guilty or not guilty'.
> The real culprit that should be in the dock for examination, is the
> law itself.
> There are no constitutional rights for the citizens.
> There are no free and fair elections.
> There are no principles of natural justice even taken into
> All what we have here is ' This is the law " .
> To be a first world country, these issues need to be addressed
> first and foremost.
> That is what primarily makes a developed nation and a first world
> country above anything else.
> Merely having BMWs and large flat screen TVs does not place us in
> the first world. Let us not fool ourselves.
RH: Many good points, food for thought. How about if the world places an 'Expiry Date' on each and every law that is passed [by necessity also having to put Expiry Dates on all old laws, too]? That would firstly, enshrine the important point that laws are only temporary 'solutions' to current problems in society and not Moses' 10 Commandments'-type 'for all time' solutions.
By having all laws as temporary solutions, we allow ourselves to
acknowledge that human nature and morality, ethics, values, etc, are
also non-permanent and non-rooted in fundamental human nature, AND CAN CHANGE, THEREBY REQUIRING CHANGING SOLUTIONS WITH TIME.
Once we acknowledge that laws are mere contrivances to solve current
problems, we disabuse ourselves of the notions that somehow laws are
permanent and therefore human beings are of permanent natures. For
example, recently, a Muslim in UK killed his teenage daughter for
going with white boys, an 'honour killing' that, of course, cannot be
understood by the white judges. By not over-regarding the law, we
improve its effectiveness and powers.
See law as temporary solutions, like say, a company's rules on
overtime pay rates, or release of information to outsiders, or wearing of casual wear on Fridays, etc, and society will be better off. Paradoxically, the law will then, shorn of its pretention to eternal rightness, be better obeyed and enforced. Then, lawmakers will not enjoy this Godlike powers of making permanent rules for the obedience of all peoples for all eternity.
Expiry Dates on every law will require a relooking into every law when the law is about to expire. Relooking will require deep thought on whether the law is still needed in the light of current times
[Singapore's Internal Security Act will, of course, need to be
rejustified instead of being allowed to continue indefinitely]. There
will be debate. There will be agonising. There will be pressure groups for and against the Renewal of the law/s. All this can only be good for the country. Good for the legislature [otherwise they have nothing to do but collect their MPs pay for nothing, except the infrequent warming of the Parliament seat once only a few times a year, while nodding to sleep].
Expiry Dates will reinforce the notions that all things in society are temporary, from standards of porn and censorship, to drugs use and abuse, to strictures governing relations between state and individual, individual and individual, corporation and individual, etc.
Different laws will, of course, have different Expiry Dates. Some laws will be fairly 'permanent', others can be expected to have a short shelf life. This is good because it will require detailed study and analysis by judges, lawyers, sociologists, philosophers, etc, not just politicians. This call for expert consideration, plus debate in the media and awareness of the issues by citizens, will all lead to better behaviour, which is what law is all about. Laws are only for the regulation of behaviour or the encouragement of lawful behaviour. With such close study on every law, due to the need to justify its very existence, its term of reference, its shelf life, better laws will be created.
What do you think?
RH: Slicers' post and my thread have argued for a look at what the
law is and what it should be. Just to add a short note: if a victim of a crime, for good reason, does not want 'justice' to be meted out to the offender, then the State has no business in insisting on meting out 'justice' when such meting out hurts her as much as the offender!
Thus, it is the height of the ridiculous to insist that 'justice' as
defined by the powers that be and inflicted by the powers that be,
even if it hurts her, must be carried out irregardless. Thus, she
becomes a victim twice over, once by the offender which she has
already forgotten but suffers another by the powers which totally
distorts her life. Thus, it is Moses Complex at work here, not
'justice' and only those with little understanding of their own
psychology and need to play God can justify such a vicious campaign of hate, torture and humiliation. There, the truth is out. It is
ultimately not 'justice' but a power play of the most vicious.
23 Jan 04
UK 0227 Singapore 1027