"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

Thursday, December 02, 2010

In the forum, on which laws raise concerns

My real concern lies with actually creating a list and proceeding to eliminate the legislation without first checking how the disappearance of a particular law can affect other legislation. It is, sadly, not as easy as checking to see whether the law you want to eradicate is cross referenced by name in another lex. Oh that it were that simple.

The problems really start when a set of circumstances conspire to create an unforeseen situation, which wouldn't have occurred had you not eliminated the targeted lex in the first place. So how do we prevent that? By carefully examining the legislation, line by line, section by section, looking to other leges to determine if the removal of that content would affect them, by consultation, by trying to predict crisis points, and generally proceeding with caution.

As I said before the praetors are unlikely to be the driving force for the elimination of say the legal code in Nova Roma. Practically the consuls drive that particular bus, determining their legislative agenda and priorities.

You can rest assured though that if elected I will expect the consuls to fully involve myself and my colleague in a through consultation process, not to be swayed by demands and expectations to eliminate this or that lex immediately, to procure the advice of the senate so as to allow for the experience of former consuls, praetors and all our senatorial colleagues to be utilized.

On those items that require constitutional changes it will be necessary and prudent to ensure that the proposed change can command the requisite support in the senate BEFORE the matter is taken to comitia. That will ensure precious legislative time is not wasted on bringing such items without warning to the comitia, passing them, only to find they fail inside the senate. On such significant constitutional items the consuls might do well to commit to the senate to seek a senatus consultum prior to seeking a comitia vote.

Additionally promoting this approach to the senate will mark a change in the way in which it has been used, and promote and develop, hopefully, not only a degree of independence of thought but also an expectation that such a practice would become common place in future years.

Negotiation to ensure passage of significant items has been sadly lacking in the last few years, for it wasn't seen as necessary when one faction or another commanded sufficient voting muscle to push items through. Times have changed, and should change and I would hope our colleagues would place any proposals for legislative amendments, especially the wholesale eradication of legislation, under intense scrutiny, and that the consuls afford them the chance to do so. If they don't, then nothing will have been learnt from the crises of recent years and they, and future consuls, may find their legislative proposals die a painful death on the floor of the house.

Anyone in management, be it in government or business, will tell you that simply tearing up policies, or in our cases leges, without doing the due diligence necessary to ensure that the situation doesn't become far worse, as well as ensuring that replacement legislation is ready and has been equally scrutinized, is a recipe for disaster. I am not advocating no change or prevarication, but measured caution, and not charging in like a bull at a gate, repealing this or that lex, only to find we need it later, especially if we could have predicted such a need by taking a measure of time more.

I also hope that if there is actually merit in legislative change that its timetable is not dictated by the desire to "achieve" something in one's consular year at the expense of it running over into the next year and thereby ensuring full due diligence is done. If the senate so wishes it can pass a senatus consultum to require the next year's consuls to continue the work, so change need not be mandatory within a twelve month period and must not be driven around consular ambition. This is a general comment, and not directed at the current candidates for consul.

Change for change sake, or just because it is popular, or change without due diligence is a very bad thing. We should proceed in a measured and cautious way.