What is the Rule of Law?
Law is a product of political action, and the power to make laws is a function of political power. It is also a function of military power, as military forces can command political power. Political power varies from one country to another. The power to make laws also varies greatly. A nation can be ruled by either political or military power, and the political landscape will vary as well.
Rules of law
A rule of law is a legal system that is designed to provide justice to individuals and communities. Justice is delivered by impartial, competent, and accessible representatives who are independent and have adequate resources to perform their duties. These representatives reflect the characteristics of the communities they serve. A working definition of a rule of law includes four principles, each of which was developed by consulting with a wide range of experts from around the world.
Often, the rule of law is expressed in a constitution. The constitutions of Germany, Canada, India, and China all contain direct references to the rule of law. Many other constitutional bodies also refer to it frequently. As a result, the rule of law is a fundamental feature of constitutional systems.
Functions of the rule of law
The rule of law is a principle of order and social harmony in a society. Its benefits can be achieved by establishing an environment of law and rule of law institutions. However, these institutions should be open, universal, and clear. Furthermore, laws should be able to guide and protect individuals, without imposing undue cognitive demands. Moreover, they should be stable and predictable, as these are necessary for a society to be governed by the rule of law.
However, the Rule of Law can be undermined by legislation that aims to remove legal accountability from official action. These laws often aim to prevent judicial review of an executive action. The problem with this approach is that it is difficult to replicate such arrangements in a different polity.
Origins of the rule of law
The rule of law is a political concept that ensures that everyone is subject to the law, regardless of background, race, or religion. It stands in contrast to tyranny and oligarchy. The first major attempt to implement the rule of law came from the 1215 Magna Carta, which was signed by Archbishop Stephen Langton and many Barons in England. The Magna Carta guaranteed the protection of ancient liberties and enshrined a requirement to pay taxes. Its principles would later form the basis for the United States Constitution.
The debate about the Rule of Law has its roots in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. In addition, the rule of law was refined through English constitutional history. Some of the earliest writers of the American Constitution were influenced by the British philosopher John Locke. Some prominent figures who wrote about the Rule of Law include John Roberts and Stephen Breyer.
Characteristics of a rule of law system
The term “rule of law” is often used to describe a society in which laws are clear and apply equally to all people. Laws must be stable and not arbitrary, so people can plan their affairs without fear of the consequences. Moreover, laws should be transparent and not imposed retroactively, and the government should be accountable for its decisions.
The concept of rule of law is complex. It does not describe a single state of affairs, and the ideal can be misused. For instance, excessive legalism can obscure the political aspects of legal disputes. It can also lead to excessive veneration of the law, which may hinder independent social assessments of proposed policies. A system that relies heavily on the rule of law can also legitimize actions even when most people oppose them.
Impact of the rule of law on society
One of the hallmarks of the rule of law is that individuals in positions of authority must exercise that power within a set of publicly accepted norms. This includes the government, which is expected to operate within the bounds of a legal framework and to be held to account through the rule of law in instances where unauthorized actions might take place.
While the Rule of Law is an ideal, there are different perspectives on its impact. Many legal philosophers focus on the formal/procedural aspects of the Rule of Law, while others argue for a substantive dimension. They point to generality as the germ of justice, while stability, publicity, and clarity indicate a close link between the Rule of Law and conditions of liberty.