“The only liberty I mean,” Burke once said “is a liberty connected with order”. The nature of this connection lay at the heart of the Anglo-American conference on law and concepts of freedom which was held at Ditchley earlier this year. Burke added “virtue” as another essential attribute of liberty and indeed moral issues are bound to play their part in any survey of the subject. Other factors are expediency and practical benefit, which must weigh heaviest with those concerned above all to make things work. The aim is as far as possible in every case to reach a conclusion which is neither disruptive nor oppressive but contributes to the healthy evolution of society. For that the conference found it necessary to look at the question from several angles, with reference first to the law-makers and all those who administer the law, secondly to those who are impelled to reject the law even to the point of breaking it and thirdly to the effect of civil disobedience on the authority of the police, the judiciary and the legislature. What had to be considered was whether there are circumstances in which breaches of the law may be tolerated.
There was held to be no point in bringing into the argument authoritarian countries in which all law is dictated from above and freedom has short shrift. The context was therefore the social democracies which show concern for the individual, the group and society as a whole, with particular reference to the experiences of Britain and the United States. Politically motivated terrorism of the kind connected with the unrest in Northern Ireland or the high-jacking of aircraft was left out of account as being totally unacceptable.
Members of the conference identified other methods of defying the law which without being so drastic are nevertheless enough to make people feel uneasy. Thus, the United States has had its fill with racial conflict, student riots, refusal to submit to the draft during the war in Vietnam, violent crime and drug-taking. With Ulster disregarded, the British record has been less alarming although chequered enough to have caused anxiety. One reason lies in an increased unwillingness to obey or to cooperate with the law in the industrial field. Two years ago this emerged in the shape of picketing abuse in the course of strikes. More recently all those who think it important to bring trade unions within the law were upset by their stubborn hostility to the Industrial Relations Act passed by a Conservative Government. But this brought discussion from the sphere of law into politics, as it is a matter for political rather than legal decision what balance of power should exist between government and unions.
Divisive Laws and their Effect
Nobody wants to see the law broken without good cause. If it is in danger of being breached, the first question asked by the members was how far the law itself is to blame and therefore those who made it. Some laws invite a sharp reaction because they disadvantage a considerable section of the community and so are socially divisive. Is a government belonging to a party which has been democratically elected to power entitled to pass such laws if it believes them to be of benefit to the majority?
A case in point is the disputed Industrial Relations Act in Britain which has just been mentioned. Whether or not the Act did disadvantage the unions, they took the attitude that it did and this was enough to make it undeniably divisive. However, the same was true of the Taft-Hartley Act when it was first introduced in the United States, but as American participants pointed out, it has since justified itself in the sense that it has proved workable and the unions have come to accept it. This was said to be equally true of the nationalisation measures taken in Britain immediately after the second world war. Controversial to start with, they too have come to be accepted by the nation as a whole. Another example was the Supreme Court’s ruling over the desegregation of schools in the United States and the subsequent civil rights legislation promulgated against the wishes of the white majority in the south. In all these cases the legislation was defended on the grounds that it aimed at achieving a social harmony greater than the original divisiveness. On the other hand such attempts may end in failure as did the introduction of prohibition in the United States after the First World War. It had in due course to be repealed mainly because it was unenforceable and provoked lawlessness on a large scale. A similar example cited by British members was the law against street betting which was unenforceable and eventually rescinded.
How far, it was asked, is the passing of divisive legislation a moral issue? If the law is oppressive or contrary to the general climate of opinion, it inevitably becomes one. It was difficult to draw an absolute line, but an example of oppression would be to deprive a minority of its normal rights. A government could be charged with immoral action if it did so. On the other hand merely to disadvantage one group of the population compared with another was generally agreed to be permissible, for instance in the case of a progressive income tax. In the social sphere a difficulty lies in interpreting the feelings of the public which, generally speaking, the law is expected to reflect. A progressive minority may hold stroigly that some kinds of conduct are harmless and should be allowed, whereas the majority disagrees, although one day it may be ready to follow the minority’s lead. Should the law be in front or behind or follow a middle road? The moral norms have an effect on the law, but the law has a corresponding effect on them too.
In any case it was felt that governments do have a certain moral duty to maintain and strengthen the democratic processes. They should show that the title of democracy is not just window dressing. Fortunately it has a substantial reality in Britain and the United States, although some may feel that in the latter the government was irresponsible in the strain it placed on the constitutional framework over the war in Vietnam. Another duty of those in power is to ensure that minorities are fairly treated and all citizens have sufficient access to the facilities for information and guidance which democracy offers through the media and through other sources both official and independent. As regards divisive laws the question was asked whether social harmony has a moral value in itself. It is certainly desirable just as divisive laws may be thought harmful if they injure the mutual confidence required to keep society on an even keel. Social cohesion is, however, more of practical than moral value as a law may be very popular and at the same time oppressive or irresponsible. It was hard to draw a fixed line between the degrees of order and of tolerance needed for social comfort: these can be judged only on the merits of each case.
In practice governments would not be able to operate if they stuck to anodyne measures which offended nobody. Every law is to a smaller or greater extent divisive, or at least differentiates, in the way it affects the public. A governing party is elected on the strength of its programme which its supporters expect it to carry out. It would be dishonest if it made no effort to do so. Governments are entitled to show their preferences. In truly political terms the point may well be much less one of morality than of expediency. With a large majority a government is in a much better position to enact controversial laws than if its majority is small. If it makes laws which are unenforceable or very unpopular it is only ‘being imprudent and storing up trouble for itself. Legislators need to consider the effect which a law is likely to have and to ask themselves how far it may increase or lessen social divisions as one of the criteria for introducing it. This may be impossible to determine in advance, but legislators can at least bear in mind the question of whom the law will benefit and the reverse.
In the United States a protection against oppressive laws is afforded by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These written documents lay down principles against which the validity of a law can be tested in the courts. The result will depend on how the principles are legally interpreted in current circumstances. This makes it more difficult to bring in radical changes than in Britain where there is no such brake and only a simple parliamentary majority is required for a law to come into force. There is all the more reason for a British government to be circumspect in the use it makes of its majority especially if it is precarious.
The Law and Social Practice
The relationship between the law and social practices can be extremely delicate, especially when a growing number of people have come to accept practices which were earlier condemned. By and large most of the ways in which the criminal law interferes with human conduct command public assent. Take burglary for instance. Burglars are not likely to protest at being punished for acts of which society deeply disapproves. The readiness to obey laws is greater if they can be seen to be of public benefit such as the law to drive on one side of the road. On the other hand some laws prohibit behaviour which those who indulge in it regard as a harmless pleasure. A case in point is that of cannabis smokers. It is argued that, if they are caught and punished, this has the evil effect of increasing hostility towards the law and the police, who have to use such objectionable methods of enforcement as street searches and intrusion into homes. It directly injures society if the law is disrespected and the police called “pigs”. This leads to a question whether there is a limit to the usefulness of the criminal law. There is a balance of evils to be reckoned with between the harm caused by a law and that done by the form of behaviour which the law forbids.
Another question was that of so-called victimless crime by which it is a criminal offence to do something which does not directly injure anybody else, such as appearing nude in public. It may shock people’s sense of decorum, but does this justify limiting individual freedom when it is not strictly necessary? This led on to the question how far the State is entitled to protect people from the effects of their own actions. The kind of dilemma this may arouse was illustrated by the British law which obliges motor-cyclists to wear crash helmets. This is unacceptable to Sikhs living in Britain because it is a form of headgear incompatible with their religious convictions. Is it right, members asked, for the freedom of a minority to be thus sacrificed partly for the general good and partly in order to preserve equality before the law?
On this sort of topic there were bound to be differences of opinion. There are cases which harm not only the individual but also the welfare of society as a whole. An example cited was the unrestricted sale of alcohol in Britain at the beginning of the century. Gin was then so cheap that it was said you could be drunk for a penny and dead drunk for two. It was only at the time of the First World War that the damaging effects on industrial workers were realised and the restrictions on the drinking hours in public houses introduced which remain in force today. Are these restrictions too frustrating? Would it be right to lift them today and to control drinking by greater increases of the cost to the consumer? But this would be only another method of regulating the same behaviour. One answer was to admit that the State has a paternal function, but that its exercise should be based as far as possible on a consensus of reasonable, liberal-minded people in order to prevent its leading to an excess of prohibitions and regulations.
At the conference there was a presumption that if a law has been passed by a democratically elected government, it should be obeyed until or unless its amendment or withdrawal has come about through equally democratic processes. Others, however, feel differently. They think that a government has no right to set itself up as a moral arbiter and in consequence they feel no moral obligation to obey its enactments. There is indeed some truth in the contention that politics are not so much to do with morality as with power and therefore with the coercion implied in the exercise of power. It is for this reason that people who are very sensitive to the constraints placed on them by paternal and, as they think, misguided legislation would prefer a measure of anarchy. Let things be settled near at home, in the local community, is the cry. It sounds attractive although the history of city states or the puritan settlements in New England does not encourage belief in the greater tolerance of small compared with large communities. However, there is some feeling that, whatever the political colour of a government, it is none the less government and therefore in some way an enemy against which the right to vote is powerless. For those who hold this view a law is acceptable only if the activity it prohibits can be proved to be harmful. Even so, they would prefer State action to be limited to regulation rather than involve downright prohibition.
This attitude was dismissed by some members as a form of neo-romanticism which leaves moral judgements to the individual. Nevertheless they conceded that the acceptability of social practice does alter with time and if the law is not changed in consequence, many people will be alienated from it. Is it then a duty for legislators to initiate or support the change required? Duty or not, it is sensible for them to do so because all breaches of the law harm the social fabric and it is better to avoid opportunities for them to occur. Unfortunately governments suffer from a certain inertia in this regard unless there are large numbers of voters to please. Small minorities tend to be overlooked. However, some striking examples of change have occurred in recent years as for instance in Britain the legalisation of male homosexuality between consenting adults and of off-the-course betting shops.
Over gambling, notable differences between the situation in Britain and the United States were cited. In the latter although gambling is widely practised and off-the-course betting and state lotteries are on the increase, it is nevertheless largely illegal. This is partly for ethical reasons and partly due to the undesirability of encouraging the organised crime which is associated with it. But the consequence is its exploitation by the people who run it illegally, disrespect for the law and corruption in the police and in city administration. In Britain on the other hand, after a varied history, the law now exercises only a few controls limited to organised gambling. There was a time after the first world war when Winston Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer wanted to tax betting but the proposal was defeated by a so-called “unholy alliance between bishops and bookmakers”, the former being unwilling to see betting officially sanctioned by its inclusion in a finance act. Yet, until the situation was changed, illegal street betting on a wide scale was tacitly tolerated. Gaming too is now permitted within certain bounds while football pools and lotteries are altogether legal. On the whole, it is a question of political management to change legislation which cannot be enforced and it may be hard to reconcile the different interests involved. But members thought it worth making the effort in order to get rid of hypocrisy and to modify the law according to current social practice rather than stick to a no longer acceptable moral code. Society has no right to impose a moral view just because it is historical. Some will be outraged by a particular change, but it that a reason for not bringing it about? Ideally not, but in practice it must depend on the case and how widely and deeply the resentment is felt. There is a balance of evils between upsetting the social equilibrium and shutting one’s eyes to reality.
The next question asked was in what conditions and to what extent people may be justified in opposing laws to the point of civil disobedience. There is of course no legal right to break the law but there can be circumstances in which popular opinion is ready to tolerate the breach or there is no practical means of preventing it. The conference recognised the imprudence of making laws which provoke resistance unless they spring from a conviction of their benefit to the public and a belief in their ultimate acceptance. Even so the views of the authors of a law may turn out to be wrong. They cannot however be blamed for risking unpopularity if they have faith in their policy. Controversy is after all the spur to progress in a democracy and it is easy to be wise after the event.
It is, however, essential to ensure that those affected by law have a real opportunity to make their views heard. It is much easier for the rich, for a well organised lobby or for people to whom political debts are owed to publicise their opinions than for deprived minorities. These may find that breaking the law is the only recourse they have and the only way to bring about reforms. There is reason to believe that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the United States would not have been passed without the demonstrations and illegal acts which preceded it, such as Martin Luther King’s march in Binuingham, Alabama, in violation of a court order. On the other hand there were cases in which violence on the part of the protesters lost them support. Can one then say that, assuming the end to be morally desirable, the method, even if illegal, deserves to be tolerated so long as it is effective? Citing a quite different British example, were those who invaded cricket pitches as a demonstration against racialism in South Africa justified in doing so, although the only tangible result was to disturb the players and spectators?
The effectiveness of an act cannot logically determine its morality. It must depend instead on both the quality of its aims and of its nature, over which judgements are bound to be subjective. People will have different views about what aims are worthy and what action in pursuing them is permissible. All the same it is fair enough to base a judgement on the fundamental freedoms inherent in a democracy and codified in the Constitution of the United States and its Bill of Rights and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On this score, members found good reason to condemn illegal actions which aim at restricting these freedoms rather than enlarging them. A case in point was the opposition to school integration in the south of the United States. (Incidentally there is now more reason for concern over the de facto segregation in the north and demonstrations against “bussing” as a means of mixing races in schools.)
As regards the nature of an illegal act the conference considered whether it is mere passive resistance to a law or whether it is violent and harmful to others. Here again each case can evoke its own response. The kidnappers of Patricia Hearst avowed a moral goal, namely to obtain food for the poor. Few, even if agreeing with the end, would approve of kidnapping in order to gain it, whereas many might accept a non-violent demonstration. In judging an act it is difficult to avoid counting the heads of those willing to support or at least tolerate it. The same is true in Britain of the attitude to students protesting in favour of an increase in their grants which have been eroded by inflation. Many were ready to sympathise with non-violent action on their part, but not with the seizure of university buildings, let alone damage to them.
The first question asked was whether there is a possibility of redressing a grievance by legal political means. Indeed this is a question which those harbouring the grievance should ask themselves before launching into illegal action. Universal suffrage does not provide a complete answer because the ordinary voter can find himself up against strong sources of influence such as big companies, trade unions or those in charge of the press and television. Again the grievance may be so deeply felt that the sufferers are not prepared to wait for a slow process of changing the law and so are impelled to take speedy action. There are those who will sympathise with them and support them if in the event they break the law, whereas others may think the preservation of order more important.
This led to discussion on the effect the breach may have on the stability of political and legal institutions. If they are firmly rooted, society can absorb some civil disobedience without danger to itself. There is, however, always a risk that it may lead to more and eventually subvert the capacity to effect orderly political change. It could even spread to the point of undermining the ability to enforce law at all.
Bearing in mind these factors as well as the many different kinds of cases to which they may be applied, the conference agreed that it is dangerous to generalise. To be drunk at the wheel is not the sort of illegal behaviour which anybody would endorse, whereas that of a conscientious objector in refusing to take up arms is admissible if he is sincere. A progressive income tax adversely affects the richer members of the community, but it is accepted as a legitimate function of governments to limit private power in this way for the public good. In fact, with almost all laws, opposition is of course permissible but not breaches of the law. The exception may be if the law oppresses one section of ‘society in favour of another or seeks to control behaviour to a degree that reasonable people find intolerable. This does not refer only to the criminal law; administrative action, for instance in the form of compulsory planning orders, can also affect people’s lives directly. Even if their number is small, they surely are entitled to be heard and to resist if the authorities are high-handed.
It was next asked whether people are morally entitled to break the law so long as they are prepared to take the consequences. Some would agree that they are if they have no other way to protect themselves than by violating the law. It is necessary to compare the importance of the violation with that of the wrongs inflicted by the law on the minority. So a case was made, for instance, for disobeying laws which discriminate on racial grounds. Willingness to pay the price for disobedience is at least evidence of sincerity on the part of those who disobey. There are instances where this may suit both sides, the authorities who want to punish and the violator of the law who seeks either to be a martyr for his cause or to test the issue in the Courts.
Administration of Unpopular Laws
It was agreed that a law should command the support or at least the acquiescence of a substantial majority if it is not to fail or fall into disuse. An unpopular law puts those whose duty it is to administer it before an awkward dilemma. Take for instance the police. They can try to enforce it, in which case they share the unpopularity of the law and are unable to operate effectively through lack of the public support they need for their primary tasks of keeping the peace and clearing up crime. The alternatives are either to turn a blind eye to offences or to follow them up at random. In both cases it will tend to undermine the authority of the police. A British participant observed that selective enforcement may work as a deterrent over parking offences, but in other spheres such as drug-taking or rioting it will seem unfair to those who are arrested. This is a potent source of irritation, while at the same time the opportunity for corruption is increased when the police are allowed a wider range of discretion.
It was generally agreed that strict enforcement of laws widely held to be unjust brings public institutions into disrepute. The courts can however find a way out by exercising discretion. In the case of unpopular laws, juries may be unwilling to convict, as used to happen in Britain over adultery or the theft of £5, both of which attracted the death penalty, or happens today over gross indecency, which carries a prison sentence. Judges may also vary the severity of their sentences. The flexibility thus given to the legal system can be an advantage especially in the case of out-of-date laws.
Both the police and the courts cannot work successfully if they are overburdened with cases of little importance. The police cannot make thousands of arrests in a democratic country any more than the courts are capable of dealing with them. To quote Burke once more, “You cannot indict a nation”. All the police can do is to break up demonstrations when they get out of hand and make some exemplary arrests, with all the drawbacks attendant upon ‘haphazard implementation of the law.
It is incidentally a curious fact that police and protesters are growing more alike in attitude. The police are inclined to become self- righteous through belief in themselves as the moral embodiment of society and not just as its instrument. Protesters, however politically diverse, come to regard themselves as keepers of the national conscience in respect of race relations, pollution and the like. This validates in their eyes the use of violence, even if it will not help them to achieve their aims. The more society becomes polarised over moral issues, the more the way will be opened to cynicism in regard to governments and institutions. This is so if courts do not appear independent but are set up, as was the case in Britain of the Industrial Relations Courts, in order to enforce government policy.
The historic view underlined the importance of the influence which the courts have over moulding opinion, the outstanding example being the United States Supreme Court. We would be deluding ourselves to believe this today. Now people are more responsive to the media or to the publicity carried out by interested bodies such as the American Civil Liberties Union or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. These have become more real centres of power than either civil disobedience or court action. This is particularly true of the media with their daily disclosure of events which weighs heavily in forming outlooks on racial questions or, until recently, on the war in Vietnam. Again the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland received an accession of strength thanks to scenes of police brutality shown on the television screen. A conference member who had lived in Ulster remarked on the contrast between the ways in which events there are interpreted in Protestant or Catholic newspapers. Truncated reporting can also give people wrong impressions. One member suggested that governments should preempt space in the press in order to publish corrections. Others protested that the temptation would be great to use the space for ‘official’ propaganda and that there is no practical way of changing the present system based on competition and the pressure of deadlines: there will always be some organs which are more responsible than others. Besides, they argued, even if the courts do not make the same day-to-day impact as the media, they exercise over a period considerable influence in subtler ways. But they should be protected by not being given either an unacceptable moral role or too little discretion.
The Bounds of Toleration
Leaving aside crimes which no State can tolerate such as kidnapping or violence against the person, illegal acts for which some defence is possible fell into a number of categories at the conference. To start with, there are those committed by a group which is legally prevented from acting in its own interest. The law in question might, for example, limit or ban the right to strike. If it were challenged, the police could expect to be faced with an impossible task in trying to uphold it because of the numbers involved. The police can in fact intervene in a strike only if it is accompanied by violence which threatens a breach of the peace. In the United States tolerance goes to the point of taking no action when a trade union violates an injunction. The violation has come to be accepted as a typical part of the bargaining process. It would be better if this kind of injunction were scrapped as it cannot be enforced.
The next category of illegal acts considered were those committed by individuals whose behaviour is interfered with by law. Here again the police are severely handicapped in enforcing laws when public opinion is divided about their merits. The prime example cited was the possession and use of cannabis. As the number of offenders grows, the police find it hard to prosecute except selectively, with all the disadvantages that implies. Some people may be arrested because the police have something else against them and others, probably more, on the suspicion of being drug dealers. The evidence may be insufficient on this charge, but the arrest gives the police the opportunity to make searches which can lead to convictions for the possession of drugs. The conference saw no way out of this undesirable situation unless public opinion were prepared to accept a change in the law such as happened over prohibition in the United States.
Further categories of illegal acts to be examined were those arising from objections to a public policy expressed in a body of law. These might be directed either against the law itself or against other laws as a form of protest. An example of the former would be refusal to submit to the draft in the United States and of the latter the historic protests of suffragettes in Britain against the exclusion of women from the vote. If large numbers are involved, the conference took note of the difficulties this makes for the courts and for the police. The question was asked whether the ends justify the means adopted by the protester. A reply could be that as the protester chooses the means, he or she has a moral obligation to use the minimum amount of force in carrying out his protest.
One attitude towards lawyers in the United States was criticised in that it expects them to tell a client how to do something dubious rather than not to do it. This sense of rejection of positive law is said happily to be waning as a consequence of certain criminal prosecutions for business crimes and, above all, as a result of the Watergate experience. As regards the police, there is a difference between British practice and American, at least in many localities. There are so many different police forces in the United States that inevitably some have more latitude than others in the way they handle cases. It sometimes happens that the American police see themselves much more than the British as managers of social conflict who can negotiate with potential law-breakers or demonstrators so that only a token handful are arrested and the demonstration is kept within bounds.
Such a transaction may be effective but it puts a strain on the repute of the law. On the other hand, it was not felt to diminish the authority of the courts. The greatest harm, members thought, can be done to the judiciary if a court ignores the crucial distinction between finding facts and imposing a sanction according to the nature and quality of the illegal act. It was said that the task of the judges is to incorporate the sober second thoughts of the community. The closer the target of protest lies to the grievance of the protesters, the more favourable is likely to be the reaction of the courts and the legislature.
A final category considered was breaches of the law by people who object to the whole system of law and government. Here, as Judge Learned Hand has said, “There cannot be such a thing as a legal revolution”, implying that no democratic government, subject to the rule of law, can even accept illegalities performed by those who want to overthrow it. It would no doubt make all the difference if the government were tyrannical.
A dilemma was seen to arise if a revolutionary group like the Communists in Britain and the United States takes care to do nothing illegal. Should it succeed by non-violent and constitutional means to overthrow the established order, it cannot be accused of violating the law. There is therefore a temptation for governments either to stretch the law or bring in new and dubious laws in order to proceed against it. A government may be entitled to take emergency measures in defence of the system which gave it its authenticity, but for most people this is only permissible when the State is in danger.
An advantage of having a written Constitution and Bill of Rights as in the United States is that they give the courts guidance by showing the preference of the State. On the other hand, the British system of parliamentary questions, if less sure as a safeguard, has the merit of immediately involving the legislature and the executive in a debatable issue. Whatever the outcome, justice should not only be done but seen to be done. It appears strange today that Locke, in advocating tolerance for all, excepted Roman Catholics. He was bowing to the prejudice of his age and nation, an unwise attitude for the makers and administrators of the law to adopt. They should avoid accepting without challenge their prejudices and provincialism, but show themselves responsive to the feelings of others.
Following these reflections, the conference found it difficult to draw a hard and fast line between the claims of order and of freedom when it comes to illegal acts. In all cases, if breaches of the law are tolerated, it may make the tactical situation easier but in one degree or another it undermines respect for the law. To get to the root, the consensus was that governments and legislators should avoid passing unpopular laws which are hard, if not impossible to enforce. They should also repeal legislation which no longer commands general support. No doubt legislators as a whole are concerned to do what is right, but it is easy to make misjudgements. It would be a preventative if they, as well as all those concerned with law enforcement, could learn to show more respect for popular mores and more understanding for minorities. Equally the public should from school age onwards be better educated as to the workings of their public institutions. It is a matter not only of theory, but of urgent practice. Faced with a large- scale demonstration which may get out of hand, how should the police act? Whatever sympathy may be felt for the protesters, the police deserve sympathy too.
There can be no legal right to break the law, but circumstances were identified in which the bulk of public opinion condones the breach. In such conditions, until or unless the law is changed, flexibility in its enforcement becomes essential, on the lines of Theodore Roosevelt’s saying of his anti-trust campaign, “We must crush the trusts, but not too fast”. In the same vein the Supreme Court decreed that school segregation in the United States should be brought to an end “with all deliberate speed”. In cases like these, as a member said, the law can be, as many younger people including young lawyers would have it, a medium of social change. But, if it forces the pace, trouble can be expected just as much as if it lags behind.
Freedom of argument is a basic condition of democracy and it is by argument that disputes should be solved. When this fails, when coercion on the one hand and breaches of the law on the other threaten the social equation, it is time for a cool and conciliatory look at what is going wrong. To put things in proportion, the exercise of protests, legal or illegal, has not so far destroyed the institutions of government involved, the legislators, the courts and the police. On the contrary, it was held to have fostered among them a new and deeper awareness and willingness to respond. Nevertheless there is, it was seen, a point beyond which indulgence cannot safely go, and democratically constituted authority must be ready at all times to identify where this point lies. The goal is to reach acceptable solutions on the basis of contemporary morality combined with enforceable expediency. This sets a premium on the ability of a society to educate a sufficient body of reasonable and tolerant people in Government and the administration of justice to act wisely or deliver wise judgements. But, even in mature societies, variations in this ability are bound to occur and may add to the difficulty in a troubled age of ensuring that democracy both progresses and prospers.
Written by C. F. O. Clarke, Conference Development Officer.
First published in the Ditchley Journal No.1, Autumn 1974.