"Sed fortuna, quae plurimum potest cum in reliquis rebus tum praecipue in bello, parvis momentis magnas rerum commutationes efficit; ut tum accidit."

C. Iulius Caesar - Commentarii de Bello Civili Bk III.68

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Rotten entrails

The elections in Nova Roma have concluded. This year they were a wretched affair in many respects, due in no small part to the abysmal failure to follow some very simple procedural rules. Of course if one cleaves to the idea that Nova Roma should be more about “people” than procedure, this will be irrelevant.

The problem with not following the laws of Nova Roma is that it provides scope for someone to claim that the elections were invalid, which in turn would lead to the claim that the successful candidates had not in fact been elected. This issue highlights the current dilemma we face, namely whether Nova Roman law can be interpreted, amended or supplanted by the mos maiorum.

Here then is the problem. Nova Roma is formed from two entities struggling to wear the same hat, Nova Roma the corporation and Nova Roma the republic. The law of the State of Maine governs Nova Roma the corporation, while its own laws govern Nova Roma the republic. The former barely permits the latter and certainly doesn’t allow for the mos maiorum, since the governing document of Nova Roma the corporation is the constitution.

The by-laws of the corporation are the various clauses of the constitution and nowhere in that document does it allow for the mos maiorum to be utilized to make sense of inept or contradictory clauses of that document, let alone the ordinary laws of Nova Roma.

Seen from the perspective of the republic the problem remains the same, since the constitution is a part of the collective law of Nova Roma, as defined in the chain of legal precedence, and its supremacy (except over the edicts of a dictator) is clearly established.

Therefore anything that interprets that document has to be held to be illegal under both our law and the law of the State of Maine, unless the document allows for an individual, group, instrument or concept to do so. Since the document does not allow anyone to tamper with the constitution in this manner, then it is inviolate.

In the elections the failure to follow the procedures proscribed by law cannot be brushed aside by the Tribunes, who have under the constitution only the power to administer the law as distinct from interpreting it. The presiding Consul failed to abide by the law and that fact is stark and simple and neither requires nor permits interpretation. Since neither the constitution nor the individual laws governing the conduct of elections allows us to fall back on the mos maiorum, we cannot just acknowledge that while the procedure laid down in our law was abrogated, the results remains valid.

Once again we are faced with the dilemma of either acting within the rigid scope of our constitution and holding fresh elections, or we can ignore the supremacy of the constitution and the chain of legal authority and follow the mos maiorum. Clearly the only sensible course of action is the latter, but by doing so not only have we nailed the lid of the constitution’s coffin down ever more tightly, we also potentially risk a legal challenge either inside or outside of Nova Roma.

The likelihood of a challenge through the US legal system is remote and the chances of one succeeding inside Nova Roma is highly unlikely since the concerted strength of vested interest would ensure that it was killed off. We cannot proceed however by ignoring these possibilities, for that would be tempting fate, imprudent and a poor example to set for citizens. When magistrates ignore the law we are a few steps closer to institutionalized dictatorship.

Clearly the irregularities in the various elections highlight the need to remove the supremacy of the constitution, absorb its relevant contents into one or more laws and return the law in general, and thus the people, to its historic and proper position of supremacy.

At the same time we need to accommodate the mos maiorum into the system. In republican Rome it was a constant, much like the sun rising and setting each day, omnipresent and deeply rooted in the psyche of the people. In Nova Roma, as usual, things are not that simple and there needs to be some thought given to how we imbed it into the order of legal precedence.

If we fail to address these issues, we will continue to have to wink at blatant breaches of our supreme legal document and our laws. The claim to be a society governed by the rule of law will prove to be one built on quicksand and charges of hypocrisy and nepotism will be self-evidently justified.

By remaining silent we will encourage more frequent and serious breaches of the law, until such time as we descend into the anarchy of just another on-line guild in a second rate RPG. It will be interesting to note any reactions from our (soon to be) two new consuls as their election was equally procedurally flawed.

This is hardly an auspicious start to the new year.