Law and Governance in the New Age

Governance was always based on power and self-interest. When parliaments replaced monarchs, dictatorships and military rule as the main source of law, political parties immediately polarized according to perceived class interests, the Right representing the wealthy and powerful, the Left representing working classes, peasants and factory employees. Religious sectarianism apart, elected assemblies throughout the world became polarized in this way, the Left-Right confrontation always evident. Some individual legislators may have been motivated by idealism, but most were motivated by their class interests, the opportunity for personal self-aggrandizement and prestige, and in many cases the interests of those who financed their campaigns.

In the democratic tradition, governance was based on the power of numbers. Majority will was law, even though it might be irresponsible or disadvantageous to minorities, or to future generations, or even to the financial credibility of over-indebted governments, the Majority was always right.

Meanwhile, as the guilt of growing inequality was reflected in growing taxation, expenditure took over from simple legislation as the main pre-occupation of government, and the added influence accompanying the power to dispense money tended to corrupt legislators. The “rewards” of office increased, as also did campaign expenditure, and those who financed the campaigns of legislature-hopefuls naturally expected to be rewarded if their candidate was successful.

With religion-motivated terrorism on the increase, governments became quietly oppressive, unresponsive and secretive, their powers and the taxation needed to support them steadily increasing without any apparent limit.

And that discouraging tale of governance applied only to the minority of better-run countries. For the rest, greed, corruption and widespread poverty were the rule.

Universally, some of the most important tasks of governance were ignored, a major example being the banking system which, although arguably the most vital element of a nation’s infrastructure, was left largely to its own devices, to gamble with the nation's financial destiny secure in the knowledge that if they lost, the government would bail them out.

Throughout the world's political history, attempts to establish basic human rights and to set limits on law have always been pursued, together with the eternal search for some inherent rightness in law and social conduct as a guiding concept in the formulation of law.

This would become the basis of law and governance in the New Age.