“Prince Splendid and the dream machine”—A fairytale for law drafterslegislative counsel
Once upon a time, in the land of Squeedgee, there was a young and clever Prince. He was admired by everybody and his name was Splendid. He was sometimes called “PS” for short. He worked for one of the Ministers in the Government of Squeedgee. The Ministers met together from time to time in a thing called a Cupboard. It wasn’t really a cupboard—that is just the name people called it, although nobody really knew why. It had always been called that since anybody could remember and none could see any reason to change it. That’s the way they did things in Squeedgee.
The Minister in charge of the Cupboard was called the Supreme Leader and Ruler (SLR for short.) There were several other Ministers dealing with different aspects of the business of the country. One was in charge of the money and although he had only been doing it for a year, he was quite influential in the Cupboard. The others called him Junior Minister but Almost King (JMAK for short.) Another Minister knew all about the laws; he was so important that people called him Almost God (or A-G for short.)
The job of PS was to advise his Minister on all sorts of important things, and to carry out the Minister’s commands. One of the most important things that the Ministers had to do was to arrange for the making of Dreams. These dreams were made in a big meeting-house in the sky called the Heaveny Regents (or HR for short.) The Minister that got the most dreams agreed to by the HR in the course of a year was generally regarded as the best Minister and could expect to get into the Cupboard again the next year.
One of the main jobs of Prince Splendid was to prepare the Dream-making Instructions (or DIs for short.) These were then sent to the Jovial Friendly Wizard (or JFW for short) to be put into a form in which they could actually be made into a dream by the HR. It was important that the proposed dream should be presented to the HR in the proper form, because the HR did not really have much time to check on its details. They would often discuss for hours or even days whether it was a good idea for people have the particular dream, but they would not always worry themselves about the details of it. Sometimes people who were having a nice dream would wake up in terror in the middle of the night, finding that the dream had become a nightmare, or did not end properly, or could not be made to work at all. Prince Splendid wanted to avoid this happening to his dreams, so he always made sure that his Dream-making Instructions followed the rules.
To help PS to write good instructions, the Jovial Friendly Wizard had issued Guidelines for Dream-making Instructions. These were designed to ensure that a dream when presented to the HR was as nearly perfect as it could be made. They had come from China, which, as everybody knows, is the place where there are lots of Wizards and Dragons and things, so PS was sure they must be very good and followed them whenever he could.
Is it needed?
So, when the PS wanted to ask the Jovial Friendly Wizard to prepare a dream, the first thing he did was to consider carefully whether a new dream was needed at all for the purpose his Minister had in mind. Sometimes, a dream was not the answer. It might be better just to tell people to change their way of thinking about things, or not to expect particular things at all. But if a dream was needed, the next thing that PS always did was to check the existing stock of dreams to see if there was one that, with a bit of dusting off, might do the job perfectly well.
It was surprising how often PS found that there was an existing dream everyone had forgotten about, one that nobody had used for a long time and was just what was needed. The trouble was that PS had never actually seen what dreams there were in the dreams stock, either because he had been taught outside Squeegee, or because he had not been taught about dreams. He had been taught a bit about the Cupboard and the Heavenly Regents, but he had mostly been taught about e-c-o-n-o-m-i-c f-o-r-e-c-a-s-t-s, about f-l-o-w-c-h-a-r-t-s, about purchasing of outputs, performance agreements and annual corporate plans. (Yes, children, there are such things, though most people think that those are just fairytales as well.)
In fact, PS had not really been taught anything much about the nature of dreams, their function and operation, or how to make them. He had to pick all that up as he went along, and he sometimes got a rather confused picture of the whole process. Generally, that did not seem to matter very much, because, as I said earlier, the Heavenly Regents did not look too closely at the dreams they were asked to make and as long as several of them were made each year, everyone was happy. Also the Jovial Friendly Wizard was a Jolly Fast Worker, so it did not matter very much if the Dream-making Instructions were delivered only a few days before the HR was due to meet—or even if they hardly existed at all.
What will it achieve?
Still, PS was a conscientious sort of chap, and he did try to prepare the Dream-making Instructions properly. So the third thing he did was to decide just what it was that the dream was supposed to achieve. Some dreams were to encourage people to do things they otherwise might not want to do such as pay money to the Government. Others were to discourage people from doing things they might otherwise want to do, such as polluting the air and sea and land and destroying all the forests. (Believe it or not, children, there were in those days actually people who needed to be told not to do such things. They didn’t seem to realise that they needed clean air to breath and healthy crops to eat.)
Every dream had to have a purpose and a proper shape. If people were to be encouraged to something they might not otherwise want to do, they had to know what would happen to them if they didn’t do it. If people were to be discouraged from doing something they wanted to do, they had to know what would happen to them if they did it. Sometimes, the dream would allow people to do things, but only if they got permission from the SLR or another Minister on a piece of paper issued by the Minister or one of his elves.
What is in it?
Sometimes the dream would set up a special body to provide people with the things they wanted, or to ensure they didn’t do things they shouldn’t. Some dreams created jobs for elves to do and gave them quite important parts to play in making the dream come true. Quite a few dreams allowed a Minister to make little dreams, or dreamlets, to fill in the gaps in the main dream if he thought it was necessary. Usually the Minister had to check first with his colleagues in the Cupboard to see if it was all right to make dreamlets.
Some dreams only altered existing dreams to add some new details, or to remove a detail that was no longer wanted. Others replaced existing dreams altogether if they had got worn out. PS made sure that he understood all these different types of dreams, and in the Dream-making Instructions he set out exactly what kind of dream his Minister had in mind for the HR to make. He didn’t leave the Jovial Friendly Wizard to have to guess things. This made the JFW very happy.
How will it operate?
The fourth things that PS in the Dreaming Instructions was to explain to the Jovial Friendly Wizard just how the dream was expected to operate; who would be responsible for every part of it, how much it would cost, how it would affect people’s lives and so on. He let the JFW know exactly what it was that the dream was supposed to achieve. This also made the JFW happy.
The fifth thing the PS did was consult other people before sending the Dreaming Instructions. Those people included anyone in the Government or outside who might be expected to have something useful to say about them. In particular he consulted the elves who dealt with people matters (People Supply Council, or PSC for short.) And he consulted the elves in the Ministry of JMAK, the one that dealt with money.
PS also checked that the DIs were consistent with the Underlying Dream, the dream with which all the other dreams had to be consistent. Especially the part of it called, for some obscure reason, Guillaume des Droits (or William Notleft, in Plain English.) The effect of this part on everything the elves did was rather important, though people did not always know just why. Perhaps it was because the Guillaume’s ancestors could be traced back to the Norman Conquest—or at least to the Great Dream of a couple of centuries later in the land of the Angels.
Another department that PS always consulted before issuing the Dream-making Instructions was the Slumberland-Guide (or S-G for short.) The S-G was the chief elf in the Office of the Almost-God. He had under his command several elves who were able to interpret dreams and knew what dreams there were in other countries and how they had been interpreted there. These elves could also tell the PS about any particular problem with his proposed dream that he might not have thought about, and how such problems had been dealt with in other countries. The PS was rather keen to have this sort of advice, because he did not want his dream to fall foul of the dreaded Court of Soothsayers. These were people who could be asked to interpret dreams by the people who had them, and sometimes they said that dreams meant something quite different from what the PS or the Cupboard or even the Heavenly Regents thought they meant. Consulting the S-G could avoid this sort of problem; though not always, now I come to think about it.
One of the things the PS had to be careful about was not preparing a dream for making by the Heavenly Regents while the Soothsayers were in the middle of saying sooth on the same subject as the dream. Doing this always made the soothsayers rather cross, and threw everyone into confusion. PS also tried to encourage his Minister not to propose that a dream should be dreamt before it had actually been made. This tended to give people headaches.
Another thing the PS was rather careful about was accepting merchandise from Dream Merchants who peddled their wares around Squeedgee and the neighbouring countries. Although most of these Dream Merchants were well intentioned, they often did not realise the effect of their dreams on the countries they sold them to. Their dreams were usually taken from much bigger countries and didn’t always suit places like Squeedgee. They might be too complicated, or too expensive, or be based on a different system.
Some Dream Merchants only advised on what dreams might be useful, but others sold what looked like complete dreams to the PS, who would then send them to the JFW for what was called “vetting”. The trouble with such dreams was that the merchants often did not know about the Interpretation Dream (known in Squeedgee as “CAP. 7”) without which none of the other dreams worked properly. Or a dream merchant might try to incorporate a different version of CAP. 7 in a dream, which created a lot of confusion. The trouble was that the PS did not know how to tell whether a dream offered by a Dream Merchant was any good or not. This was because the PS had not learnt at school anything about the making of dreams, as I have already mentioned. The problem was made worse by the fact that the Dream Merchants were sometimes sent by the rulers of big countries who were keen that the people of Squeedgee should dream their type of dream.
In fact, if the PS thought about it, he would have realised that for the cost of a single dream from a Dream Merchant, he could afford several dreams made by assistant Wizards in the Office of the JFW. But for some reason, there was supposed to be more powerful magic in a dream from a Dream Merchant than in a homemade one. This was a big mistake. The Dream Merchants often had their own reasons for wanting to encourage Squeegee to buy one of their dreams. They sometimes hoped that their dream would become the model dream for other countries, or even for the whole world! So they put lots of different dreams together in a big omnibus dream. One example was the Sustainable Development Dream, which would have given people nightmares if they actually dreamt it. The JFW, when he began work, soon put a stop to that, I can tell you!
Anyway, having gathered all the information he needed about the proposed dream, and its likely effects on people who dreamt it, the PS put the information down in joined-up writing on a big piece of paper called a m-e-m-o-r-a-n-d-u-m. He then sent this to the Jovial Friendly Wizard and asked him to prepare a beautiful dream for approval by the Cupboard and then by the Heavenly Regents. The JFW was always ready to oblige, but although he was a Jolly Fast Worker, as I have said, he could not actually do miracles and he needed enough time to prepare the dream.
This question of time is a very strange one, children, for it seems to have the effect of making normally intelligent people behave completely irrationally. Perhaps they think that preparing a dream doesn’t need time, but I can assure you it does. And not only time to write it and draw the pictures and colour it, but time for the Cupboard to approve it and for the Heavenly Regents to make it. Let me try to explain. Are you still sitting comfortably?
The rules are really quite simple. Before the HR can be asked to make a dream, the dream must be told to everybody so that they can object to having it. After all no one likes being made to have a dream they don’t want, especially in a d-e-m-o-c-r-a-c-y. So the proposed dream has to be published as a Guillaume (Bill in English) in the town newspaper called the G-a-z-e-t-t-e. This must be done at least 30 days before the HR is due to meet. The Gazette is only printed on a Friday (for reasons that it would not be appropriate to discuss in a story for children). And the Cupboard, which has to approve the proposed dream before it is put in the Gazette, only meets every other Tuesday (ditto). Moreover, the Heavenly Regents only meet every few months (more ditto).
Although 30 is quite a big number—more than anyone has on his or her (or its) fingers and toes—PS went to a good school and can count up to 30. So it should be quite easy for PS to work out which issue of the Gazette the dream will have to be published in. If that is too difficult, there is a nice big chart, with lovely coloured squares on it, which is issued to all the Ministers and their senior elves, showing when the HR and the Cupboard will be meeting during the year.
Unfortunately, PS keeps his chart on the wall behind his head and always forgets to look at it before sending Dream-making Instructions to the JFW. I think perhaps the Wicked Witch of the West (WWW) casts a spell on the PS and makes him forget all the rules about the timetable for publishing dreams.
Of course, before the dream is published, it has to be approved by the Cupboard, and the Cupboard needs time to read the proposal, only a week, but still PS often forgets it. And of course the JFW and his assistants need time to polish the dream to make it nice and shiny before it goes to the Cupboard. This might involve several attempts at the dream, and they might need to be looked at by quite a lot of people.
What all this means is that, even if PS wants only a very simple dream to be prepared by the Jovial Friendly Wizard, he must get the Dream-making Instructions to the JFW at least 10 weeks before the start of the meeting of the Heavenly Regents when it is to be made. If the dream is a complicated one, the PS should allow several months for the JFW to do his job. Otherwise, the JFW might not be such a Jovial Friendly Wizard but might turn out to be a Jolly Fierce Warlock instead!
No drafts please
There’s one other thing that is very bad for the JFW and that is a malfunction called “tunnel vision”. This happens when the PS, instead of sending proper Dream-making Instructions, sends the JFW a complete imitation of a dream, usually sold to the PS by one of the Dream Merchants. The trouble is that the JFW, who is only human after all, will be tempted to assume that the imitation, which looks like a dream, sounds like a dream, tastes like a dream, feels like a dream, and perhaps even smells like a dream, is in fact a dream when it might be nothing of the sort.
The JFW sometimes calls this the “Crossword Puzzle Syndrome” which means that if the crossword puzzle in the newspaper has been filled up with letters, it is natural to assume that they make up the correct words, when on inspection they turn out just to be random letters. Rather often a dream purchased from a Dream Merchant turns out to be like that, and it can take a lot of trouble, first to identify the errors and then to correct them. Please, children, try to avoid giving the JFW tunnel vision; and try to be alert to the Crossword Puzzle Syndrome.
I called this a fairy-tale. That’s because it describes how PS goes through all the right steps in preparing Dream-making Instructions. Unfortunately, all too often this really is a fairytale. The reality is that the JFW receives a phone call or a two-line note from the PS saying “We need a dream by tomorrow. Please prepare it for us.” At those times the JFW once again turns from a Jovial Friendly Wizard into a Jolly Fierce Warlock. However, he still, miraculously, manages to produce the dream. Children, I am sure you will agree that these things ought not to be.
I hope that this tale of Prince Splendid and the Dream Machine will help to ensure that they do not happen in future. Sweet dreams!