Friday, 7 June 2013

China Post Editorial On "Rule Of Law"

"Readers may not know that we risk going to jail writing these editorials."
Of course; there are no rights in Taiwan, merely permissions. Our legal "right" to freedom of speech should be understood explicitly as a permission which can be revoked if someone of sufficient status becomes sufficiently offended. However, the China Post's readership is quite small since it is one of Taiwan's two English language newspapers with a print edition, and so it is unlikely that offending editorials will be noticed by the government. 
"The fact that we have a law punishing people “insulting government institutions” does not mean that this law is correct and should be invoked the way the SID is invoking it.
Isn't it just doubly contemptible to the point where you cannot decide whether to laugh or cry? To have to actually point out that a given law is not ipso facto correct, and that this particular law forbids "insulting government institutions". The two points directly contradict the democratic premise that an elected government's raison d'etre is to serve "the people". 
That is the reason why laws have to be revised time and time again to reflect changes in society."
Sure, but it depends whether the revision in question concerns ephemeral aspects of the law (e.g. to update it to take account of new technology), or whether it concerns basics like rights. The latter are supposed to reflect a basic understanding of what human beings are - to deviate from a set of rights guarding the condition of individual freedom is to interfere with the nature of human beings.
"We have seen many authoritarian governments cite the law they make to crush dissent. And we have seen how the Legislature of this country has made absurd laws. This is not the rule of law."
Correct. "Rule of law" is a bad way to phrase the concept if taken in isolation from its' counterpoint "rule of men"; what is meant is a body of law that is coherent and non-contradictory (which may also mean that that body of law should be fairly small), and which is implemented with a consistency of application such that all members of society can be said to be "equal under the law". However, this is an ideal, and in actual fact the coherence and consistency of law often falls well short of this ideal because it is always contingent upon, in the first place, an elected legislature with monopoly powers over the writing of law and in the second place, a policing and judicial system that enjoy delegated monopoly powers. In any monopoly there are only, at best, weak incentives to detect and correct error. What is needed is a different system for the production and enforcement of law that has much better incentives to detect and correct error...

1 comment:

  1. I would only add that for me the irony of such a law is that in a democratic system, in principle the Government and all public servants including police are supposed to be accountable and the public is supposed to be able to hold elected officials and government institutions to account for what they say and do and NOT the Government holding people to account for their opinions of the Government.


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