Friday, 24 January 2014

The Sausage Machine

Otto von Bismarck is credited with the comment - ""Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made."

Perhaps that comment is understandable - making laws can be messy. As different views are expressed, it can look like endless argument. That is one of the reasons that many voters are put off politics. But it is necessary. In a democracy laws should not be handed down from on high. Members of legislatures are there to express the (very often) quite differing views of citizens. As a consumer I want my rights protected; "sharp" practices outlawed; dangerous products prohibited; and redress if my person or my property is injured by someone else's actions. A business wants "red tape" to be minimised or abolished. A right for me may limit your rights.

These things need to be discussed. Experience and "common sense" may need to be applied to an idea that a policy maker has come up with. Different perspectives need to be applied so that the danger of the "law of unintended consequences" is lessened.

The legislative process may be messy - it may be long - but it is vital. Citizens need to know how law is made - so that they can - when they need to - become involved in the process. They can ask their representative to support or oppose a particular measure - or advise of the consequences which the legislator may not realise. Often citizens only find out about a measure when it is too late to do anything. They might not know how or when to make their views.

Our democracy is enhanced when citizens know how it works.

(There are some excellent online materials available -

Parliament has a webpage dedicated to explaining the UK's legislative process - http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/passage-bill/.

The classic, "How Our Laws Are Made" for the US Congress is available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CDOC-110hdoc49/pdf/CDOC-110hdoc49.pdf.

There is an informative video about the EU legislative process at http://youtu.be/2OQuvbOAb0o.

The French legislative process is explained on the Assemblee nationale (English) website.)