5.4.3 Acceptability of the Law
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:
● Laws should not unduly restrict people’s freedom. A degree of personal liberty is a fundamental requirement of governance (2.1) and people will chafe against restrictions that appear to be unnecessary.
● 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).
● The legislature should be able to command the respect of the population: the legal system is undermined if the political class cannot be respected. Requirements for the performance of politicians (6.3.3) and their leaders (6.3.4) are detailed in the next chapter.
● People should be able to feel that they have had sufficient influence on the negotiation of legislation, and that the legislative process is seen to be transparent and fair (18.104.22.168).
● They should be able to feel that the law-enforcement agencies (5.2.5) and courts (22.214.171.124) 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 (126.96.36.199): it must avoid alienating sections of the population.
● It should avoid conflict with religious law (188.8.131.52), to avoid having continual conflict with members of religious sects.
● It needs to adapt to contemporary culture (184.108.40.206), so that behaviour which people regard as normal is not declared to be illegal.
This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books. An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/543.htm.