Imagine a world where the government is about to regulate wages so that top incomes are no more than ten times the lowest. Imagine you’re earning a really high salary, as a banker let’s say. Imagine your salary will be cut and your bonuses capped. Ideologically you believe in the absolute purity of money, you believe it shouldn’t be interfered with and you believe you have every right to make as much of it as you can.
However, the restrictions are going to become law; you’re not being listened to and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. What would you do?
Maybe you’d leave the country, but that’s a big decision. Maybe you’d accept the world has changed and be grateful you’ve got a job. Or maybe you’d take to the streets and protest even though you’ve despised others for doing the same in the past. If you were backed into this corner and if you felt you had no voice – would you riot? Would you smash up your beloved City of London in the style of a retreating Russian army?
Sometimes it’s interesting to pause and imagine these things. If there’s nothing fundamentally different between low and high paid workers why wouldn’t they react the same when cornered in the same way? Maybe you think bankers are special and would never stoop so low. Maybe you think they’re more intelligent and would find alternatives. Or maybe you think they’re privileged and protected in a way that others aren’t?
Imagine a world where the defining law that creates equality is a law that prevents a chasm between the haves and have nots – what do you think would happen?
Quantum Confessions by Stephen Oram is set in a world where the Liberalists and the Absolutists are fighting each other for control.
A world where bankers might riot!
What we consider acceptable today was different five years ago, very different twenty years ago and unrecognisable a hundred years ago.
How does it happen?
Look at the way our attitudes are changing to corporate tax dodging; who’d have thought a few brave protesters could shift the mood of society so successfully. Drinking and driving is another example where an advert labelling a drunk driver a wanker changed attitudes more than the law ever did.
How did we change from endorsing to despising the drink driver and the corporate tax dodger?
What happens to change the Zeitgeist?
Are we linked to each other on some level? Or do we just follow where the media leads us, subtly gauging their trends to make sure we’re part of the crowd? Or maybe we trust each other’s judgements more than we realise and the media latches on to our trends and then amplifies them?
The Wisdom of Crowds theory says that using the ‘norm’ from a large group of independent individuals is a better way to make decisions than using single experts.
So, if following the crowd is the safest way to get things right, how does the crowd start to shift in the first place?
As ever, I’m coming at this from a lay-person’s point of view. I have nothing more than an average understanding of the law, so please read on in that spirit.
To prohibit is defined in the dictionary as the act to forbid by authority or law. Prohibition is often used to define a period when alcohol is prohibited, but I’m going to use it as a general term for the legal prohibition of anything.
There are lots of things that are prohibited and the law is there to make sure we obey. Some of these are obvious and talked about semi-openly in public, such as drug prohibition. Some are so built into the fabric of our society that we don’t even recognise them as prohibition. For example, public nudity which is described by the CPS as, “…acting in a way that does not conform to the normal standards of society that require people to be clothed in public…”
I’m not trying to start a campaign for drugs or nudity – there are plenty of those already. The bigger point that’s been niggling away at me is that I don’t think it’s always obvious or commonly agreed what a prohibition law is meant to achieve. Who are the drug laws meant to protect – the individual, society, alcohol sales? Why can’t we parade around in the nude – what dreadful thing is being prevented?
If we all understood the purpose of a law we’d be more likely to update or remove it as society progresses and changes. Not thinking about the reason for a rule can lead to some bizarre actions – it reminds me of the ethical vegetarian who drinks milk even though 100,000 male dairy calves are killed at birth each year.
It seems obvious that we need to understand why we do what we do and yet too often we don’t. Surely, if every law included a description of what it was trying to achieve then we could assess whether it needs removing, updating or it’s just plain stupid.
We need to agree and focus on the underlying purpose of our laws and not simply enforce them.
Living in your dystopia 14: your prohibition lacks purpose…