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Symbolic laws 1st March 2006

Catherine Fieschi (February) takes a rather benevolent view of the legislation she calls “symbolic,” in the sense that government undertakes it in order to send a signal to the public and to trigger debate, rather than to prevent or punish. She cites the racial and religious hatred bill, which, since the appearance of her article, has happily found itself severely amended. For all its stimulus to debate, may I suggest that such legislation is only useful and benevolent in so far as it is defeated. Symbolic legislation has a habit of becoming hard law.…

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