BBC 2012 Third Reith Lecture: The Rule of Law

John Curran

Prof Fergusson

The Aspen Institute Photostream

In Naill Ferguson`s third Reith Lecture the Professor focuses on the evolving nature of Anglo-American common law a comparative exercise allowing him to refer to alternative legal jurisdictions, most notably China where no separation of power or independent judiciary exists. In the West argues Ferguson the rule of law has degenerated into the rule of lawyer`s, especially in the USA, which was once the gold standard other legal jurisdictions measured themselves by the “United States was the rule of law” according to Professor Ferguson.The halcyon days Ferguson identifies are difficult to reconcile with America`s constitutional arrangement built on the premise that African-Americans were three-fifths human, the so called compromise of 1787. Jefferson author of the `Declaration of Independence` was also a slave owner and as Malcolm X quipped “we didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us”.  Indeed, women were also denied the vote prompting the Seneca Falls Convention 1848 to campaign for democratic rights a goal not achieved until 1920 a measure excluding African-American women living in the Deep South.   Read more of this post

Chomsky:1215 and all that…

Copyright Synne Tonidas

John Curran 

Professor Noam Chomsky the world`s leading public intellectual viewed by some as a wild-eyed radical is actually an old fashioned conservative. He is committed to the traditional values of Magna Carta, a document that shaped the Anglo-American legal system, ultimately establishing a presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. With this thought in mind, it is worth considering how traditional conservative ideas are today viewed as radical in both the USA and UK. As we know the Conservative Party in opposition went through a re-branding process as Cameron appeared to move his party leftward and in doing so rediscovered the Conservatives civil liberties antecedents. When the coalition government was formed, one significant judicial appointment was that of Dominic Grieve MP who, as Shadow Justice Spokesperson, was viewed as a politician with strong civil libertarian credentials he became Attorney General and the Coalition`s chief legal adviser. In a lecture given in 2008 Mr Grieve outlined what he saw as the essence of what it means to be British, extolling the virtues of freedom waxing lyrically about Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution of 1688. But he was concerned that New Labour was dismissive of this heritage, as evidenced by restrictions of jury trail and permitting unacceptable periods of detention without trial. Grieve felt that the pendulum had swung too far and that the climate created by New Labour was one of tyranny. Labour he argued breached the ideals of the Bill of Rights and undermined the notion of Habeas Corpus. Grieve together with the Shadow Justice Minister, produced a policy document called `Reversing the rise of the surveillance state 2009`. Outlining concerns about a perceived reduction in citizen`s civil liberties in an eleven-point programme. Grieve now resides in a government that has generated concerns about civil liberties and Cameron has recently demonstrated the Tories have forgotten what Magna Carta means.     Read more of this post

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