5.4.3 Acceptability of the Law

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/543.htm)

The effectiveness of law depends upon its acceptability.  Laws are not workable if large numbers of people don’t accept them: large-scale infringement of the law undermines it, both by causing people to lose respect for it and by overloading the enforcement agencies, judiciary and penal system.  The whole legal system therefore needs to be acceptable to most people in its area of jurisdiction. This depends upon several factors:

  • It should have legitimacy: people should be able to feel respect for their country’s Constitution (or its equivalent) and the framework of secondary rules which defines how laws are created and amended (5.2.3).
  • People should be able to feel that they have had sufficient influence on the negotiation of legislation (5.4.1.2).
  • They should be able to feel that the law-enforcement agencies (5.2.5) and courts (5.2.6.1) are impartial, and that judges exercise their discretion with due regard for acceptable principles (5.2.2).

At a more basic level, people should be able to identify with the law – to feel that its purpose (and the way it is used) is to help and protect them rather than to oppress them.  This is the subject of the next three sub-sections:

  • The law needs to be inclusive (5.4.3.1);
  • It should avoid conflict with religious law (5.4.3.2);
  • It needs to adapt to contemporary culture (5.4.3.3).

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