British and Continental Law

I read a fascinating description of the differences between the continental and British law. In continental mentality, laws exist to give and guarantee your rights. In British law, laws exist to curtail your rights because rights are something you are endowed with by virtue of existing. Other humans can’t give you rights. They can only abridge them for purposes of more comfortable coexistence.

And this, which I really love. In British law, the meaning of a statute is defined by the words it uses. In continental law, the meaning is defined by the purpose the statute is used for at any given time.

This is from Frederick Lawton, Lord Justice of Appeal in the 1970s. Obviously, today’s Britain is nothing like Lawton’s Britain. Freedom-loving Brits have gone extinct.

5 thoughts on “British and Continental Law

  1. “the differences between the continental and British law. In continental mentality, laws exist to give and guarantee your rights. In British law, laws exist to curtail your rights because rights are something you are endowed with by virtue of existing. In British law, laws exist to curtail your rights because rights are something you are endowed with by virtue of existing.”

    Continentals, with the exception of citizens of the Dutch and Scandinavian constitutional monarchies, have few to no historical or contemporary lessons to teach the UK in regards to democracy. In fact, without Britain and its unwritten constitution, dating from the Glorious Revolution of 1688, there might be no modern liberal democracies. Bills of rights in written constitutions can be mostly worthless when push comes to shove – consider the case of interned Japanese American citizens in World War II where the US Supreme Court ruled that their imprisonment and property dispossession was entirely legal under the constitution.

    “Freedom-loving Brits have gone extinct”

    Not buying it for a second. As the lyrics of a nearly 300 year old song put it: “Britons never ever ever shall be slaves.” The British have several centuries experience in pushing back hard on claims to excessive power by their elites – in contemporary times, this explains Brexit in spite of the ferocious opposition of nearly all the UK’s nobs and chattering classes.

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    1. “Freedom-loving Brits have gone extinct”

      I might add, somewhat churlishly I admit, that British elites aren’t the ones who recently fixed national election results to their satisfaction right out in the open and then placed their capital city under a form of military occupation “pour encourager les autres.”

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    2. “Vaccination will be your route to liberty,” said Tony Blair on Good Morning, Britain. Nobody protested or found any problems with this statement.

      I rest my case.

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      1. Leaving aside the questions of whether Tony Blair should ever be quoted as an authority on anything, you might like to read this before you defend the indefensible any further.

        Although I hate to give clicks to the rabid wokesters at The Guardian, here it is in summary form…

        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/24/calls-mandatory-covid-jabs-conflict-britons-right-to-say-no

        And, besides, who actually believes that anti-vaccination is the lynchpin of democracy – more significant than, for example, out-in-the-open fixed national elections or placing troops on the streets of the capital city to intimidate people who didn’t vote the right way?

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  2. I can’t accept what has been written about so-called British law and continental law because case law or judge made law was in use hundreds of years before Fredrick Lawton said anything in the 1970s.

    Further, in my experience, the legal fraternity is full of liars, thieves, junkies, and bought off slime who cynically make virtuous public proclamations that are in such stark contrast to the corrupt reality of their despicable so-called profession that they would be in good company alongside pedophile priests crying about the virtues of celibacy & the family.

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