Liberty and friends

by | May 10, 2009

I am (and will be) putting in some pretty extensive hours in the dayjob during the week, and madly editing Chess Nuts on weekends, so I haven’t got much time for reading.  However, on my bedside pile at the moment I have a couple of compelling books which appear dissimilar on the surface, but less so underneath.

Firstly, I’m reading the Booker-winning The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (although it’s oddly comforting that some pre-Booker critics were dismissive of the novel, for various reasons.  These mixed responses highlight the fact that in writing, you can’t please all of the people all of the time: note to self).  I haven’t got very far into it (see first sentence), but in part it deals with the consequences of a bureaucracy more concerned with lining its own pockets than providing a public service.

The other book I’m reading is Geoffrey Robertson’s The Statute of Liberty.  I must be the only person on the planet who never saw the eminent QC do his thing in Hypotheticals (I didn’t have a TV at the time: they are cumbersome whilst hitchhiking), but I am interested in the pros and cons of a charter of rights.  I have heard the argument that rights are best protected by elected Members of Parliament than unelected judges, but Robertson says that parliaments cannot deal with cases where the public sector sins against individuals, and argues that human rights bills do not override the ability of parliaments to make laws, only to ensure that laws are interpreted to be consistent with human rights.  Again, I haven’t got far into the book yet, but it’s possible that the protagonist of The White Tiger might have had an easier time of it had there been an enforceable bill of rights in India, at least.

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