History shows that ever since we first roamed this Planet the laws and customs by which we live and interact evolve in line with the current state of Society. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines ‘law’ as:
“a rule or system of rules recognised by a country or community as regulating the actions of its members and enforced by the imposition of penalties”.
This recognises that the laws of different communities and races, colours and creeds reflect the prevalent socio-political norms of each particular Society. The laws of developing countries will be different to those of Western democracy, reflecting the level of how ‘developed’ each culture is.
Whilst the history of law-making dates way back to the 21st century BC, the oldest written laws on record were those of the Babylonian king Hammurabi in the 18th century BC, who created 282 laws that set the standard of conduct and justice for his empire of ancient Mesopotamia. The essence of these laws sought:
”to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak and to see that justice is done to widows and orphans.”
Even that far back they included the establishment of a minimum wage for workers. Field labourers and herdsmen were guaranteed a wage of “eight gur of corn per year” and ox drivers and sailors received six.
Society’s laws are often derived from religious beliefs, as well as civic procedure, some of which have remained in force right up to the present day. The doctrine of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ was not instigated by Magna Carta but rather copied from Hammurabi’s ancient dictates.
I would offer therefore, that Society, (‘the cart’), is directed by democracy, (‘the reins’), which steer government, (‘the horse’) and its regulations, in the direction Society is travelling.
All legislation is introduced, amended, or discontinued to reflect the current climate of Society and its needs. The law that required a man to walk in front of a motor car with a red flag to safeguard pedestrians, is no longer relevant.
200 years later and we see the enactment of legislation to ban smoking from public places, in recognition of our change of direction on cigarettes and how they endanger our lives. This is evidence of a properly functioning Society
The reverse is the case in an authoritarian regime.
Here rules and regulation are enacted to control how that Society functions, rather than reflect how it functions. By the very nature of an authoritarian environment, those rules are also inflexible, to maintain that control.
The ‘cart’ is put very much before the ‘horse’, who is pushing Society in the desired direction. Invariably, the regulations are biased to support one sector of Society at a cost to another sector.
In the case of the EU we have, for example, small businesses overwhelmed by bureaucratic red tape, which large established corporations can afford to accommodate. This has the effect of stifling the growth of new businesses, the accepted life blood of commerce and trade, encouraging a protectionist monopoly situation which supports the control of markets and prices.
Authoritarian control can also be seen in the Treaties that support the bureaucracy of Brussels, which are ‘welded’ onto the statute books in such a way as to inhibit any changes to the desired status quo.
Over the last 40 years EU Treaty change has occurred about once every 10 years on average and shows a regulatory inflexibility that is ill equipped, or desirous, of meeting the requirements of the hugely diverse cultures of the 500 million people over which it holds sway.
One simple example, right at the heart of this rigid bureaucracy, illustrates how these carefully constructed Treaties support an abusive authority and offer little or no benefit to anyone else.
For years now, each month the European Parliament, (that is all 751 MEP’s, some of their staff and all their paperwork) up sticks from Brussels and travel 200 miles to Strasbourg where they spend four days voting on all they have talked about in Brussels.
Currently, we are talking 3000 people being transported by two specially chartered trains for the MEP’s – dubbed the Euro Track Express – with their staff, translators and general helpers travelling by other means. This is all backed up by a fleet of lorries that, in convoy, transport 5000 plastic trunks full of official papers over the 200-mile journey and back again.
The annual cost to the taxpayer of this regular spectacle is £150 million, which includes the upkeep of both bases. Within this figure is £2.5 million for the relocation of freelance translators, £1 million for catering, £250,000 for the lorries and £200,000 for the trains.
The absurdity of this monthly relocation is recognised by everyone involved. Indeed, the MEP’s have constantly lobbied for it to be stopped but it has fallen on deaf ears. It seems it would take a ‘Treaty change’ to remedy the matter but after the troubled ratification of the Lisbon Treaty there is little stomach to go through the arduous process at present.
I question this, as in 2010, Angela Merkel declared there could be no Treaty change on ‘bailouts’ and in that same year EU leaders agreed to a €440 billion bailout fund . . . over a weekend! It appears that what is ‘impossible’ can be quickly overcome, particularly where the EU’s second largest economy is at stake.
In an era when we have deregulation of commerce and the banks and zero hours’ contracts for the working population, this type of immovable regulation is directed at the protection of power, emphasising the vast gap between what the 1% control and that which the majority control.
These ‘concrete’ treaties, for the protection of the technocrats and their growing federation/empire, do nothing “to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak”, whose taxes pay for it all.
Here we see how the cart has been put before the horse. History shows how this contempt for the people eventually results in the fall of all empires, including Rome and Ancient Greece.
Once again, in this 21st century, we are plagued by the power driven ineptitude of career politicians and technocrat’s intent upon a self-destruction that they believe they are immune from.
Whether we remain or leave, it is something that will come up on our radar with evermore regularity, demanding we retake the reins and direct our cart away from the looming abyss.
Until the next time
Thinking from his Book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to the 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes