Moses received the Ten Commandments carved on stone tablets. Emperors and kings gave their instructions to their subjects on parchment in hand-written bulls with red seals. And today?
Many citizens believe their parliaments discuss and adopt beautiful new laws in serious debates. Unfortunately, the reality is different.
Most new laws are written by a few specialist advisers in the ministries. Well-paid external consultants and law firms often collaborate in the wording of texts. The ideological aspirations of a governing party are often put into practice. Lobbyists contribute their interests. It is helpful if donations have previously been made to the parties. The draft goes via the heads of department to the state secretary and then, usu- ally with few comments, to the minister. The minister is often an inexperienced career politician. He relies on the expertise in the house and, together with his party confidants, pushes through the law in parliamentary committees and the cabinet with the majority of the governing parties. The only individu- als having understood and read through the law are the spea- kers, a few experts and lobbyists. The deputies in the specialist committees and in parliament usually abide by their government’s position. Horse trades frequently occur in coalitions. Everyone is allowed to choose his or her favourite topic. From a formal point of view, this is democratic, but from a material point of view it is an imposition.
When gaps or wrong decisions in the law become apparent in real life, everyone refers to “the law”. It is raised – like God’s Ten Commandments – to the pedestal of infallible logic and is not changed for the next years. The courts must adhere to the wording, whether it makes sense in individual cases or not.
Many laws and regulations are formulated in a way that is too complicated and incomprehensible, not transparent and no longer comprehensible to citizens.
Laws remain in force for many years, even if they prove to be of little practical use or contain loopholes. The laws are tenaciously defended by those parties who launched them in parliament.
This traditional form of slow and anti-modern legislation needs urgent reform.
Laws are there for the people.
We should reverse this process. Fast legislation, effective monitoring with experts, readjustment, improved flexible laws reflecting the realities of life.
In the future, they should be regularly adapted to the latest knowledge and needs of tomorrow by perpetuating reforms.
In addition, laws and regulations must be formulated much more clearly and understandably for citizens.
- Before making a decision on a new law is taken, its content ought to be thoroughly discussed in mandatory, intensive public hearings with experts in the relevant commit- tees. These discussions as well as the inputs of lobbyists, should be published online as a report before beginning delib- erations in the committees. This makes the legislative process more transparent and democratic.
- Parliament ought to adopt a reform law with this salvatory clause: “Each new law will be reviewed by a group of experts 24 months after its entry into force scrutinizing its effectiveness, deficiencies, necessary amendments and cost-ef- fectiveness. The expert report is published with suggestions for improvement and discussed in the relevant committees. Parliament must then vote on a legislative amendment within a further six months. Otherwise, the law will automatically expire. “A supplementary law is then passed reforming the old law and adapting it to reality. This will professionalize legislation more factual and flexible.
- The old laws must undergo this reality check within one year and will be supplemented with necessary improve- ments and a reform clause.
- Reducing the flood of laws: for one new law, two old ones must be abolished.