Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jeremy Waldron

I missed Jeremy Waldron's speech put on by the Maxim Institute on Monday. Bummer.

Waldron is a serious intellectual and gave a guest lecture at Auckland University when I studied there.

His speech on Monday touched on a topic dear to my heart: bad law-making and lack of constitutional safeguards.

We defend the stripping away of each safeguard by pointing to some other system that doesn't have it. But we only ever consider them one by one, without considering how many of these safeguards we have stripped away and how anomalous it is in the world to have a legislature with such untrammelled powers," says Professor Waldron.

"No quorum, no second chamber, no requirement to attend in order to vote, no judicial review, no real independence from the executive and constant recourse to urgency. It may be possible to justify each of these features considered in itself, but we must consider their cumulative effect on the quality of public debate."

"I worry that in New Zealand, we have moved to the idea of dispensable debate, where debate is seen simply as an embarrassing ritual that needs to be gone through as quickly and with as little cost to the public as possible. Parliament is not a place of genuine engagement anymore," Professor Waldron argues.

"New Zealand's Parliament has become a place where preordained positions are stated, with hopefully as little fuss and as little public expense as possible. Parliament—the one forum dedicated to public debate—is becoming the one place where public debate has become perfunctory—a simple matter of political posturing."

"I am afraid that a society which has allowed its tradition of parliamentary debate to atrophy is also in danger of allowing its traditions of more informal public debate to atrophy. As Parliament becomes a place where people simply state preordained opinions, maybe civil society at large is in danger of becoming a place where people simply state preordained opinions.

Parliament becomes a place where no one listens and society too becomes a place
where people deafen themselves to the opinions of others."

Hear hear.

If I find the speech somewhere I'll comment on it.

Did anyone from this readership attend, and if so how was it?

1 comment:

Steve from Maxim Institute said...

Hi, you can listen to the lecture in its entirety here: