by Kevin Smith
New Year’s resolutions offer us the chance to give up various things. When it comes to human rights, we should hang on to what we’re doing well.
It’s a new year, and with the flipping of the calendar page comes the usual push to change, to reform, to be better. I will drink less. I will eat less. I will exercise more. The resolution revolution is upon us.
Needless to say, pondering my could-be-healthier lifestyle got me thinking about human rights. Yes, you’re right – it’s a tenuous link, but hear me out.
Ultimately, governments who care about human rights and try to meet their obligations under human rights law face similar challenges to individuals trying to stay in shape. It’s a constant battle: there is no one-session solution, whether in Parliament or in the gym. Doing the right thing can be painful. Regulating one’s own behaviour requires not only will-power, but long-term thinking. Not doing the right thing might be more convenient in the moment, but ultimately, could lead to shame and embarrassment.
by Kevin Smith
One way, or the other?
The Government’s intention to use the legislature to intervene in some matters relating to the Church of England but not others is not only worrying for the Church, but ill-advised for the Government too.
The Church of England has been unusually talked about in the past few weeks, even for the Christmas season. The hot-button issues of the General Synod’s rejection of female bishops, and the Church’s response to the Government’s plans to introduce same-sex marriage, have thrust the UK’s national religious institution and its leaders into something of a political maelstrom.
By Kevin Smith
For a glorious, fleeting period spanning late elementary school and the early teenage years, the stylish response whenever objections were voiced regarding one’s playground conduct was to invite litigation.
Well… kind of. But not really. While the response “Oh yeah? So sue me!” was thrown around with casual off-handedness, it was of course a taunt. You don’t like it? So sue me. What are you going to do about it? I took your place at the lunch table? So sue me. I stole your snacks? So sue me. Pretty heady stuff, you’ll agree. Indeed, it’s hardly surprising that this flurry of prepubescent litigiousness was exciting enough to convince a few of those involved to pursue a professional career in the field.
By Kevin Smith
What kind of standards do we expect from the leaders who shape the way our businesses and social institutions function?
A little while ago my friend and colleague Sam Bright wrote an article for this site in the aftermath of erstwhile Barclays boss Bob Diamond’s resignation due to the unfolding LIBOR scandal. In it, Sam asked where the responsibility for such scandals should fall, and whether it’s appropriate in such instances to assign – or conversely, to restrict – blame to the shoulders of the “people at the top.”
Both the article and the issue itself raise challenging questions about accountability to the public. Ignoring for a moment the specificities of the Barclays scenario, there’s the broader question in any such instances of whether it is really reasonable to expect the resignation of an individual who might have had no idea about ongoing improprieties in his or her organisation. At the same time, holding accountable only the person or few people directly responsible for various misdeeds might see a handful of low-level “bad apples” out of their jobs, but is this enough to maintain or restore the public’s trust in the organisation as a whole? And what about, as Sam asks, the wider group of enablers – the legislators who created a legal framework where such scandals could take place, the regulators who turned a blind or even colluding eye, or the wilfully-ignorant shareholders who collectively had the power to demand better but failed to? Should any culpability rest with them? Read More
A few of the inconsistencies in the ‘gay marriage’ debate…
by Kevin Smith
“Keep Marriage Special,” (KMS) a lobby group including Anglican bishops and MPs, recently claimed that allowing gay marriage could lead to legalising polygamy and incest. This kind of “slippery slope” argument has been employed many times and in various forms against same-sex marriage. KMS now cites polygamy and incest as the threats; Rick Santorum infamously suggested bestiality. They’re all strands of the same twisted logic.
The suggestions are as offensive as they are ridiculous, but it’s not enough simply to identify these claims as mere scaremongering. It’s important to articulate not just that they’re absurd and outlandish, but why they’re wrong.