Friday, January 7, 2011

Learning From History 2

Roland Freisler, Hitler's judge who subjected German law to the will of his paymaster, the Fuhrer

You may remember a couple of months ago I blogged on the current state of affairs in Ireland where many of our citizens were calling for an end to certain democratic structures so as to sort out our economic difficulties.   Well, the debate continues, but another suggestion has been made thanks to a revelation that twenty-two of our judges have made no voluntary contributions to the Revenue in lieu of the tax levy the rest of us citizens have to pay.  Now some of the most vocal are calling for a referendum which would allow politicians cut judges' pay.

Now you are probably scratching your head either in disbelief or lack of knowledge: a little bit of background will help.  As I mentioned in that post above, when Eamon de Valera was writing our Constitution he sought to divide power so as to prevent a tyrant like Hitler, Lenin or Stalin assuming total control.  He also established the judiciary as separate from the government so as not to be under a Taoiseach's control.  Part of this was refusing to allow governments to cut salaries of judges so they could not be threatened by financial penalties if they did not do what a government wanted.  A good idea.  Now the poor Irish want rid of that safeguard, and I'm sure there are lots of politicians who would support them wholeheartedly, after all, isn't it nice to have something to ensure the judiciary plays ball.  

Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.  That is a phrase modern Ireland would need to heed in these hard times.  Some would say, better a slave with a full stomach than a hungry free man - there will always be a tension between the comfortable life and standing for freedom, liberty and the good.  But I think we need to take heed of our recent history because the rise of fascism and communism took place at a time not very unlike our own. 

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