Achieving a functioning society
When a government controls both the executive and legislative functions, it is easy to pass any law that they want. For example, the law on anti-terrorism has been passed with the justification that it is an effective law. What does effective mean? It depends on what we actually mean.
The other concept in law is the rule of law. Do these two concepts need to be opposite of each other? Or can we say that, in fact, for laws to be effective we must have a society that adheres to the rule of law.
According to Professor Alan Macfarlane: “One index of effectiveness is whether there is the rule of law but what does this mean? It could be interpreted as people being prepared to settle disputes through legal processes rather than by force. In most societies people fear and hate the law, or believe it is weak and corrupt. To persuade people to use the law as normal process for settling disputes is enormously difficult and requires political skill and good fortune. It happened in early England, but it is still not widespread in many parts of the world.”
Macfarlane therefore believed that the rule of law exists only in a few countries. The prevailing view in most parts of the world is that there is one law for the powerful and the rich, and another law for the people.
The rule of law depends on the uniform application of laws for the rich or the poor. This requires that the legal process should be separated from the political process so that judges and the courts should be independent.
Coercion of judges and the court is not always visible. Ever since I can remember, it has been true that those who can afford to hire better and more expensive lawyers will have an advantage in the courts.
The other problem in the effectiveness of the law concerns the degree by which people abide by legal decision. People will rarely follow a decision that is against their interest. There are of course different ways of making sure decisions are not followed. Again with the right kind of lawyers, decisions can just be postponed or moved from one court to another. There are even instances when decisions by one court can be changed by another court.
This is one of the reasons that ordinary citizens do not feel protected by the law. The State has all the power and whoever controls the state will normally control the courts.
In spite of all these difficulties, each society must have laws if only to legitimize their actions. China will impose its will on Hong Kong even against the wishes of its people. But even here, even if China has unparalleled power to do what it wants, it still passed a law to legitimize its control of the daily life of Hong Kong.
The concept of individual human rights is a very attractive idea. It has become a central