It was Charles Darwin one hundred and fifty years ago who postulated that for living things the world is as it is owing to competition. Karl Marx and Adam Smith each had his own take on competition which can be said to have led to Stalin and George Bush respectively. But one does not expect eg the human arm to be in competition with the human leg because for the organism to function to maximum efficiency both limbs have their particular use. Yet as organisations grow, unlike the human body, constituent parts and their masters or mistresses therein continually seek advantage over their perceived competitors in other departments.
Within the armed forces generals, admirals and air marshalls are ever seeking increased funding for their particular service and within each service such exercises in cake dividing are routine. Whether the result is increased or reduced efficiency I am not qualified to comment. Similarly within the NHS various committees are appointed to decide the worth of a human life; whether £1 spent on improved pre natal care is better value than £1 spent on assisting terminally ill patients dying with minimum distress. The outcome for these examples of competition is generally beneficial for most people most of the time.
A free society can function in extremis without armed forces. The people of Luxemburg or San Marino are not noticeably shaking in their boots and suffering sleepless nights because they don`t have troops in their barracks. Whilst there are many possible arguments for and against a state funded system of healthcare it cannot be said that a free society depends upon one or other argument. Indeed this country was a reasonably “free country” before 1948.
The same, however cannot be said of a state without a comprehensive system of laws guaranteeing ownership of property and protection from harm for its citizens.All parts of the system must function together in harmony. A breakdown in one part of the system results in a breakdown in the whole. Competition has no place in a Criminal Justice System.
But it is apparent that different parts of this system are competing for the ear of government and the eye of the public judging by what is appearing in the press over recent months. Judges are being accused of supplanting parliament as law makers. Parliament is making laws for the police to use often against advice from libertarians and then making u-turns when these powers are used in a predictable inappropriate manner. Government against advice does not build enough prisons for an escalating lawless minority. The same government encourages by its legislation judges to impose heavier sentences for violent crime. Prison governors on their own initiative release prisoners well before the completion of their sentences without regard to the sentencers. Probation services campaign for all sentences less than twelve months to be substituted by community orders despite validated evidence that magistrates are cautious in the extreme before ordering custody. Jack Straw castigates magistrates for sending too many defendants to Crown Court whilst organising the closure of perhaps 25% of all Magistrates` Courts because of reduced workload caused by the ever increasing use of Fixed Penalty Notices by police officers who are acting as prosecution, judge and jury. And the self same police, according to a report in The Times Nov 27th this time the Met, are blaming an increasing number of dwelling house burglaries on the unsubstantiated myth that Magistrates` Courts are releasing on bail prior to trial or sentence too many prolific offenders. The Met of course has a highly efficient professional PR department. Meanwhile the Magistrates` Association on a tiny budget fights gamely to protect its corner in the face of these assaults on its members. What price a joined up Criminal Justice System……democratic freedom for the citizen?