Chesterton's Fence - work out why it was put there before tearing it down

The newspapers are full, on any given day, of people insisting that radical changes must be made to society, that the laws of the old be tore down in order to allow the growth of the new. This is not quite how it should be done. That correct manner is to do as has been done here over the law banning fishing during the spawning season:

A 140-year-old law that prevents river fishing for three months a year could be scrapped following a Government review.

The law was introduced under the Freshwater Fisheries Act 1878 so fish could complete the “procreation of their species in peace and quiet” from March 15 until June 15.

It’s an old law, something that was put there for some reason or other. Before we get rid of it we need to know what that reason was and then whether it still applies. This requires thought and investigation:

But the ban has been the subject of heavy criticism for decades from anglers who say it is outdated and unnecessary.

Many argue that most of the target species – roach, bream, perch, chub and barbel – do not spawn until the end of April or early May and that regardless, fish very rarely eat during spawning season.

The close season on still waters and canals have both been lifted in the last 25 years, with no demonstrable impact on fish stocks.

We don’t think that government and public consultation are perfect by any means but there has at least been serious consideration of the issues. This is the best we’re going to get quite frankly.

We’re obeying Chesterton’s Fence, something propounded by the late, great, GK. If we come across a fence in the country we cannot just insist that it now has no use, away with it. We have to understand why that fence was built in the first place. What problem did they intend to solve with such effort? Only once we’ve done that can we even attempt to decide wither the problem still exists, whether the fence is a useful solution to it?

This applies to anything and everything left to us by our forefathers. For example, Modern Monetary Theory tells us that fiat currency can be printed in unlimited amounts to finance government spending. Tax then exists to curb the resultant inflation So, why not do that? Why do we limit money creation? Why do we even worry about budget deficits?

The answer being that money creation is not a new thing, it’s the monetisation of fiscal policy. And we’ve noted that varied rulers who have tried it, from Henry VIII through Robert Mugabe and Nicolas Maduro have become croppers using it. For the temptation to a politician is to crank up the printing presses but not the taxation. MMT is one of those things which might, even could, work in theory but doesn’t with humans.

Why isn’t the BBC liable for those presenters’ tax bills, given that employers’ NI was the tax being dodged? Because limited liability doesn’t work if they are.

Always, always, consider why the fence exists before deciding to do away with it.

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1 COMMENT

  1. It was useful to prevent record specimens being records only because they were fall of spawn. I remember when I was a kid and really into fishing people would scoff at records being broken that way.