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Monday, January 15, 2007

Politics v Law: The Game of the Century.

I'm currently going through a dilemma as to which field I would like to assert myself in professionally. International Law or Politics ? That, my dear friend Mr Shakespeare, is the question. When I talk of Politics I mean everything policy driven outside Law. That is, everything that is based on diplomacy and inter-governmental negotiation. When I talk of law I mean international law, international treaties and the struggle for realistic internationally applicable, binding and "upholdable" rights.

I feel like I am at the stage where I have learnt a bit (not enough) about both, and I can see the impact that both have and it is now up to me to choose a path. I want that choice to be based on ensuring that what I do with my life can have a maximum impact in bringing about the possibility of real global change at a high level. I think globally beneficial change is most possible through political negotiation, but is most probable through law, if you follow what I'm saying.

What I mean is that, global change, for better or for worse, is ultimately brokered through political negotiation. However, political negotiation or "realpolitik" will always be based around notions of power. Those with power will rarely if ever negotiate themselves out of power and will rarely if ever make concessions that might give more power to those without power. In this sense, "unchecked" politics leads to a self perpetuating hierarchy of state power.

Law, on the other hand, can guarantee fair negotiation, but perhaps not effectiveness. That is to say, whilst law can provide a fair process, and demand equal standards for its players, law is often determined/interpreted/dictacted/violated/or just plain ignored, by real politik. The Rule of Law is often at the mercy of the hierarchy of power created by politics (and is thus weakened in its effectiveness).

So the choice is between:

Law, a system that is slow, little respected, often unrealistic but wholly binding and the sole tool that can, in theory, enable true equality of arms in negotiations between all states.


Politics, a system which is by its very nature based on power relations and thus a system that will always be wholly biased towards powerful states, but a system that nonetheless determines the world in which we live.

To break it down, for me, the difference between politics and international law is this:

International Law is like a cricket team that has great potential, a team which (if adhered to) would obliterate the best side in the world, a team which everyone in the world would be proud to watch and call their own. But for some reason International Law is a cricket team that continues to turn up to play in a park cricket competition in Mudgee on Saturday afternoons rather than playing in the international arena. Predictably, International Law always wins its matches against the Mudgee Bears 4th grade team, but it's a hollow victory, and those who watch them play (a dedicated bunch of supporters who call themselves The International Lawyers) always have the feeling that they're watching a side show, rather than the main stage. Sometimes, late at night, when The International Lawyers are really honest with themselves, they realise that hardly anyone has heard of their team, and quite frankly, probably never will.

Politics, is the cricket team's manager. It realises that it could make a lot of money if it entered its cricket team into the international arena instead of forcing it to play in Mudgee. But for the moment, Politics is making more money by running a gambling syndicate at Mudgee race course. Unfortunately, the syndicate is rigged. The members of the syndicate don't have an equal share, so the wealthier members always win more than the poorer members. The wealthy members aren't completely unreasonable though. They often offer to pay for all the poorer members' beers whenever they go to the races, provided of course the poorer members, with their significantly inferior cut of the winnings, buy cocktails for the wealthier members next time.

Politics sometimes feels a tinge of guilt about running its rigged gambling syndicate, most especially, when it sees the poorer members rifling through the bins in front of the local RSL looking for money to pay for the mounting number of cocktails they owe. Be that as it may, although Politics feels that its gambling syndicate membership may not be the best thing in the long run, just for the moment, it can't argue with the odds.

For me the choice is about what offers us the most hope. And it's there that I get confused.



Anonymous said...

Jamison, the answer is clear - neither. Use your undoubted talents and become a famous rock star (Jimo?) and then tell politicians how to run the world for the good of all. Then again, maybe you're not desperate enough for love to need all that applause.

Anyway, don't forget the backstage passes for your rel's.

Anonymous said...

I love the analogy jame... classic.. very funny.. dan