Why do some people, amongst whom we must shamefully include our current law-makers, make such appallingly bad decisions, despite the fact that the counter arguments have been clearly presented and clearly stack up? Of course there are all sorts of reasons, but the ones that seem to plague us very commonly in the UK today are:
*Vested interests that skew the balance in favour of not seeking better alternatives,
*Previously entrenched irrational ideas which cloud judgement,
*Insecurity or entrenchment of ideas that feeds dogmatism, authoritarianism and a misplaced sense of infallibility,
*Political correctness which dissolves the need to think clearly about individual cases by providing textbook but ill-considered responses,
*Moral relativity that creates the notion that every position can be held as being right if it tallies with the cultural background of the source,
*The post-modernist dissolution of the notion of meaning and reality.
*All of which contributes to the inability to take criticism seriously or to genuinely consider the opposite case.
It rather looks as if all the above may have played a role in the frightening outcome of the recent debate about the Government's Racial and Religious Hatred Bill. Boris Johnson and others of sound mind, demonstrably destroyed any argument for this bill. Boris asked Charles Clarke to explain how passages from the Koran and the Bible would not be subject to prosecution under this law and quoted this passage from the Koran: "As for the unbelievers, for them garments of fire shall be cut and there shall be poured over their heads boiling water whereby whatever is in their bowels and skins shall be dissolved and they will be punished with hooked iron rods.” Mr Clarke was reduced to meaningless flat denials to the effect that the above did not represent anything like incitement to religious hatred. Meaningless denials do not constitute substantive counter-argument and yet about an hour later the bill was passed.
And the reasons for this? Matthew Parris writes in the Saturday Times "...ministers were never much interested in what their new law would do; they are interested in how it will look, especially to Muslims in marginal constituencies." This would appear like a vested interest then, nothing to do with legislation improving the lives of the people, and everything to do with votes, but you sense that the whole idea of the bill in the first place also stemmed from other poor forms of thinking, such as entrenched political correctness, cultural and moral relativity, perhaps even, heaven forfend, a deep-seated and hidden disregard for truth-seeking that is implicit in the post-modernist attitude. In the event, the government was reduced to hopelessly misguided authoritarianism in order to get the bill through.
In the meantime, it rather looks as if all of us are going to be thrown into a measure of confusion. When will we be prosecuted under this law? Would it be the case that we can get away with incitement if we use words directly taken from the Koran or the Bible? Could it possibly be that the law could be used in a prosecution against itself, since I don't, as a rule, feel the urge to experience religious hatred, but have certainly felt incited to do so since I realised that the Bill had passed it's Second Reading?
It all rather reminds one of the problems thrown up by the antisocial behaviour legislation. Will we or will we not be prosecuted for doing the gardening in a swimming costume, for example?
When will everyone wake up to this proliferation of bad laws, which probably criminalise almost all the population, but which will only be used against a few in an utterly random way. Good laws have good reasons for existing which these laws don't. Good laws are clear upon the matter of what constitutes a transgression and who will be prosecuted. These laws fail on these grounds alone. That cannot be good legislating.