• John McG

The Law is an Ass - pt 2

Is the legal system losing its morality, or more so, how separated from morality can it become? Is complexity of law being developed as a tool, to override the principles on which it was based? The legal system may have grown to be the body of established rules by which we abide, supposedly providing universal accord, yet the code of fair play from which it derives is being increasingly distorted to favour those in closest contact with the process. The constant testing and redefining of law, by those with an interest in shifting the bar to suit their own ends, tends to favour technical description ahead of moral principle.

Mythology, as explained by Dr Jordan Peterson, is the aggregation of many thousands of years of belief systems, perhaps billions of people, and countless ideological battles, eventually bringing together a cohesive narrative, which can bind societies with a basic story. These myths underpin the social structure, and are the distant ancestors of the legal structure. The social structure being the mode of cooperation that has allowed humans to work together in increasingly large group sizes, each time evolving into larger hierarchical frameworks to organise the groups. The common thread in all these groups has been mythological variants, which provide both a narrative connection to the past, and a moral metaphorical structure for the present. Myths proliferate morality within the story, cementing tribal identity, and anchoring history. As such, myths never enunciate morality precisely, the phenomenon is too broad in its application for a singular definition.

Over time, the ‘organising’ of groups, has become … organised. Tribes, language, agriculture, democracy, cities, writing, printing, reading, industrialisation, transport, computing, and maybe social media, have all advanced organisational capacities. With each progressive step, different social orders arose, and interactive understanding of ourselves, others, and our world, expanded. From Hammurabi’s code and Greek democracy, to the Magna Carta, to the Declaration of Independence, greater definition has increased over time, contributing to wider definition of codes of behaviour which one should abide by, and should reasonably expect in return. The writing and sharing of common law has allowed civil society to flourish.

However, it seems to me that process of adaption, individualisation, extension, and development of the law has now begun to splinter its moral foundations. The constant rewriting of laws, by those who wield the power to do so, is on a constant search to find new ways to benefit the powerbroker, at the cost of chipping one more grain of morality from the bedrock. Each time a powerful corporation wins a court battle to defeat common law and enact a new element beneficial to that corporation, morality itself is further ebbed away in some small quantity. Each time the state allows this sort of concession, it concedes morality to legality. Over time, if left unchecked, the legal system will become bereft of morality, leaving it only as a tool of exploitation. Surely, at some point, the tide of moral corrosion must be turned back, to restore fair play to this rigged game.

I hope to further develop this argument in time, as I come to understand it with wider scope. This sense of foul play masquerading as fair play bugs me, though it’s very difficult to pinpoint the actual bugs. As we tumble further into social and civil unrest, I expect the powerbrokers will employ the law in newfound ways, which will highlight the rot, allowing us to see the shortfall.

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