Wednesday 24 August 2022

Who needs rules?


The prisons, so they say, are full of innocent people. Not really, of course, but it’s a way of expressing the fact that an awful lot of prisoners continue to protest their innocence years after their convictions. A few of them are telling the truth; there are more miscarriages of justice than anyone would really wish. But the vast majority of those ‘innocent’ people are merely frustrated that their claimed innocence has collided with what the courts foolishly like to think of as provable, demonstrable fact. For the minority of truly innocent victims of miscarriages of justice, it is, I suppose, fortunate that they weren’t sentenced to death and executed. If I understand the argument promulgated by the current Home Secretary, Priti Patel, in 2011, hanging a few innocents is a price worth paying because of its deterrent effect. One can never be entirely sure with Patel, but it did sound a lot like she was saying that hanging innocent people will deter others from being innocent, although I may be missing something there.

Anyway, back to all those ‘innocents’ currently banged up in jail. The potential for savings if the police and courts simply took their word for the fact that they know the difference between wrong and right is immense. And it would rapidly clear the backlog of outstanding cases as well as resolving the barristers' strike. Far fetched? Maybe not, under a Truss government. She appeared to argue yesterday that a government led by her would have no need of an independent ethics adviser, because she knows the difference between right and wrong and always behaves with integrity. Leaving aside the remote possibility that she might not be telling the whole truth there (see this article, from earlier today, about an alleged misuse of government facilities by, er, Liz Truss), it certainly helps to explain her proposals for ‘simplifying’ (i.e. reducing) the regulation on banks and financial services companies. After all, we all know that we can trust bankers, hedge funds and speculators with our lives; it’s not as if any regulatory deficiencies have ever allowed them to cause any serious problems. And why stop there? We all know that we can trust the bosses and owners of water companies to address leaks and pollution, so letting them regulate themselves, as a certain, er, Liz Truss, did in 2015 (since when sewage discharges have rocketed) was obviously more sensible than spending government money and resources on monitoring them.

Perhaps preventing rentiers and exploiters from pocketing vast profits at our expense imposing unnecessary regulation on honourable people who can always be trusted to do the right thing by the people as a whole is one of those functions which Jake argues that the state no longer needs to do. Rules are not for the likes of him. Or Johnson. Or Truss. Those of us who might think otherwise are obviously misunderstanding some basic concepts. Like right, wrong, honour and integrity, just for starters.

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