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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Sunday September 27 2009

I like this comment, on this, from “Chris The Brief”, in connection with the Baroness Scotland housekeeper rumpus:

This government has created so many new criminal offences and civil penalties that it is delightful to see the Attorney General become a victim of its legislation. As a lawyer practising criminal defence I’ve been saying for years that it will in due course become the accepted norm in society to have a conviction or two. By ‘criminalising’ so many people (and in particular children), the rule of law is severely weakened and morality, good character and integrity become less and less important.

Although, I like how that starts more than how it finishes.  Good character and integrity remain as important as ever.  It’s just that the law ceases to be so good at helping us all assess these things.  But the general drift of what CTB says is spot on.

Luckily, there is at least some limit to the amount of damage a deranged legal system can do to a wrongly stitched-up individual, who has done something wrong only according to the crazy legal system, but not according to the rest of us.  If the rest of us think someone is innocent of wickedness even if convicted by the stupid legal system, we can contribute to their defence fund, visit them in prison, and now, write them up on our blogs.

To put the same point another way, surely the punishment of being sent to prison in the usual old-fashioned kind of way, for having done something wicked, is not just that prisons are horrible places to be in, even for a quite short time.  It is that when you get out, your problems will have only just begun, and while in prison you will know this.  But, if you commit a New Labour type non-crime, that won’t apply nearly so much.  Instead of being welcomed back into the free world by stone-faced employers who refuse to employ you, and outraged former friends - even relatives - who no longer want anything to do with you, you will be welcomed back into the land of freedom as the put-upon hero that you are. 

And to put the same point yet again, more generally: when the law is done well, it aligns itself with the informal power of the wider society.  The law sends you to prison.  The wider society then makes the rest of your life a misery also.  But when the law is done by the likes of this Scotland woman, it challenges, and is challenged by, social power.

I wouldn’t have any problem with someone hiring an illegal immigrant to look after their home.  I may well have done this myself.  All sorts of Eastern European ladies have had the grim task of cleaning up after me, over the years.  If any of them were illegal, I don’t give an aeronautically unchallenged act of heterosexual intercourse.  I did nothing wrong, and they were all excellent people, better people than me, every one of them, and more than worthy of the sums of money I happily paid them.  If any policeman wants to make something of that, well, that could be just the injection of excitement that this blog has long needed to bring it alive and propel it towards the big time.  Which is all part of why the saner sort of policeman doesn’t want to enforce all these Scotland laws.  Which in its turn is all part of how the law suffers.  In theory, all kinds of things are now illegal.  In reality, you can do them with impunity, so long as you don’t make the mistake of Looking At Someone Important in a Funny Way.  Then, they find out what laws you are breaking, confident that you are breaking a few, and set to work ruining your life.

So, I really would not care whether Ms Scotland lied about seeing the relevant documentation of her maybe-illegal cleaner, were it not for the fact that she is part - rather an important part if her title is anything to go by (although I think people are probably exaggerating how much personal power she herself exercised in this matter) - of this horrible law-machine churning out legal chewing gum for us all to get caught up in.

The true culprit here is an idea, which says that if there is a problem then the politicians must do something.  They must “crack down”, “take action”, and so on.  And the only way for them to crack down and take action is to pass a new law, forbidding more stuff, and obligating more stuff.

Lots of other libertarians have blogged similar things in recent days.  I don’t claim any originality here.  Most opining about politics seems to consist, as here, of choosing which bits of commonsense to go with and which bits to denounce.