Legal environment where cases are handled in a non-arbitrary manner

The rule of law, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is "The authority and influence of law in society, especially when viewed as a constraint on individual and institutional behavior; (hence) the principle whereby all members of a society (including those in government) are considered equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes". The phrase "the rule of law" refers to a political situation, not to any specific legal rule.


Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand, by Edmund A. Opitz, The Freeman, Jun 1976
Explains mercantilism, the rationales for political power, the proper role of government, Adam Smith's metaphor of the "invisible hand", his concept of "equality, liberty and justice" and how a free society allocates economic goods
"The American system was to be based upon a different idea. It took seriously the ideas of God, the moral order, and the rights of persons. It discarded the notion of using government to arbitrarily disadvantage a selected segment of society, and instead embraced the ideal of equality before the law. Government, in this scheme, functioned somewhat like an umpire on the baseball field. The umpire does not write the rules for baseball; these have emerged and been inscribed in rule books over the years and they lay down the norms as to how the game shall be played."
A Free-Market Constitution for Hong Kong: A Blueprint for China [PDF], by Alvin Rabushka, Cato Journal, 1989
Discusses the draft of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, expected to be promulgated in 1990 (actually adopted 4 April 1990 and went into effect 1 July 1997), as a "free-market constitution"
"Private property flourishes only within a framework of the rule of law. Article 8 stipulates that the laws in force in Hong Kong, including common law, customary law, and legislation, shall be maintained. Retention of the existing legal system serves to protect private property rights. In particular, the British legal system, arising from the common law, is especially concerned with protection of private property."
Agenda for Liberty: A Biography of John Lilburne, by Jim Powell, The Triumph of Liberty, 4 Jul 2000
Lengthy biographical essay
"Lilburne's ideas inspired Army radicals to draft the Agreement of the People, for a firme and present Peace, upon grounds of Common-Right. ... It envisioned a rule of law: 'That in all Laws made, or to be made, every person may be bound alike, and that no Tenure, Estate, Charter, Degree, Birth or place, do confer any exemption from the ordinary Course of Legall proceedings, whereunto others are subjected.' ... Agreement of the People was an historic achievement. Nowhere else had there such a serious effort to resolve fundamental issues through discussion."
A Libertarian Visits South America, by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom, Mar 1999
Relates Hornberger's trip to visit the Instituto de Estudos Empresariais in Brazil and the Fundación Atlas para una Sociedad Libre in Argentina
"The other afternoon session featured a debate with a law professor about the importance of the rule of law in a society. I emphasized the point that Friedrich Hayek made in The Constitution of Liberty — that the rule of law is essential to a free society. But I also pointed out that it is not sufficient for freedom; that is, constitutional restraints on the power of government to regulate peaceful activity were also necessary prerequisites of a free society."
Bush's Signing Statement Dictatorship, by James Bovard, 9 Oct 2006
Details some of Bush's (more than 800) signing statements and his "unitary executive" doctrine (invoked almost 100 times since he took office)
"President Bush['s] action vivifies that the rule of law now means little more than the enforcement of the secret thoughts of the commander in chief. ... The American Bar Association recently declared that Bush's signing statements are 'contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers.' ... Americans may have to wait many years to learn what the rule of law meant in 2006. The truth may be suppressed until Bush's aides begin publishing their memoirs or until the Supreme Court has a change of mood and decides that the executive branch is not entitled to boundless secrecy."
Related Topic: George W. Bush
Libertarians and Liberalism: Essays in Honour of Gerard Radnitzky, by George Leef, The Freeman, Jul 1997
Review of the 1996 book, edited by Hardy Bouillon, which includes essays by Walter Block, Arthur Seldon, Hans Sennholz, Anthony de Jasay, Gordon Tullock, Antony Flew and Vaclav Klaus
"In 'Libertarians and the Rule of Law,' Arthur Seldon explores the reasons for and implications of the decline of the rule of law. He writes, '"Democracy"' is propounded as an unquestioned political ideal—by politicians. The good word "public" has been debased into a cynical question-begging misdescription for the power-seeking by individuals who would fail in the competitive test of the market-place.' Too much law, he argues, undermines respect for and the enforceability of true law that protects human society."
The Quest for Cosmic Justice, by Richard Ebeling, Future of Freedom, Dec 1999
Review of The Quest for Cosmic Justice by Thomas Sowell, 1999
"Sowell reminds us of just how unique the American experiment in free government was from its very founding. Justice meant the impartial enforcement of the rule of law, in which the rule of law referred to the protection of individual liberty, private property, and freedom of association and contract. Law was meant to represent the rules within which free men might voluntarily interact, without interference from the government. The outcomes from such free interactions and associations were not of central relevance: they were merely the spontaneous and often unintended results of human action."
Related Topics: Communism, Society, Thomas Sowell
Clinton in Africa, by Thomas Sowell, 15 Apr 1998
Crititcizes Bill Clinton for his "apology for slavery" and suggests he was playing the "race card ... to escape the consequences of his own actions"
"... what ultimately happens to Bill Clinton is of minor importance in the grand scheme of things ... What matters infinitely more is preserving the rule of law that has spared us the tragic fates of so many other countries, all around the world. We should never forget that, even today, the rule of law is the exception — not the rule — among the nations of the world. Our great blessings as Americans come not from our personal merits but from our having the good fortune to live under a rare form of government, with a constitution dedicated to preventing concentrations and abuses of power."
Related Topics: Africa, Bill Clinton
Curing the Therapeutic State: Thomas Szasz on the medicalization of American life, by Thomas Szasz, Jacob Sullum, Reason, Jul 2000
Subjects discussed include involuntary commitment, the insanity defense, ADHD, government drug policies and physician-assisted suicide
"This [commercials for pills for social or generalized 'anxiety disorder'] is allowed on television. But advertising Scotch, a legal drink, is not allowed. This subtly undermines the rule of law, the principle that if something is legal, then it's legal, and if it's illegal, then it's illegal. A prescription drug is illegal; pharmacists cannot sell it to you unless you have a prescription. These are illegal drugs, but nobody calls them illegal drugs. "
Related Topic: War on Drugs
Decimating the Constitution with Military Tribunals, by Jacob Hornberger, 27 Sep 2006
"Contrary to popular opinion, it does not mean that people should obey the law. What it means is that people should have to answer only to a well-defined, previously enacted criminal law for their conduct, not to the discretion or arbitrary judgments of government officials."
Hard Cases Make Bad Law, by Jacob Hornberger, 23 Mar 2005
"... if one of the litigants had filed his suit in federal court ... the federal judge would have dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction ... This is an example of the 'rule of law' — where a judge follows the law rather than deciding on his own to let the case proceed out of sympathy for one of the parties."
Hayek, Friedrich A. (1889-1992), by Ronald Hamowy, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 12 Aug 2008
Biographical and bibliographical essay
"In that work, Hayek attempted to set out nothing less than a treatise on the theoretical foundations of a free society. A work of immense erudition, The Constitution of Liberty outlines Hayek's views on the origins and nature of law in a liberal society, his conclusions regarding the nature of justice, and his conception of a free society. A free polity, Hayek contended, is one in which men are governed by abstract, general rules that are predictable in their application and apply to all, in contrast to systems of government based on the exercise of wide, discretionary powers by those in authority."
Hayek, Life and Times, by Jim Powell
Lengthy biographical essay, with extensive quotes both from Hayek and others (including Keynes)
"Hayek noted that 'today the conception of the rule of law is sometimes confused with the requirement of mere legality in all government action. The rule of law, of course, presupposes complete legality, but this is not enough: if a law gave the government unlimited power to act as it pleased, all its actions would be legal, but it would certainly not be under the rule of law. The rule of law, therefore, is also more than constitutionalism: it requires that all laws conform to certain principles ... The rule of law is therefore not a rule of the law, but a rule concerning what the law ought to be ...'"
Hong Kong's Legacy, by James A. Dorn, The Journal of Commerce, 1 Jul 1999
Discusses the potential results of Hong Kong moving away from "its policy of laissez-faire capitalism" such as intervening in support of stock prices versus the effects of Hong Kong influencing mainland China towards a freer and more prosperous economy
"For O’Sullivan, as for the framers of the U.S. Constitution, 'The natural laws which will establish themselves and find their own level are the best laws.' The common-law tradition of Hong Kong should be the basis for a permanent rule of law that enshrines the principles of freedom and democracy — not just for the SAR but for all of China."
Related Topics: China, Democracy, Hong Kong
Is Ken Lay Really a Criminal?, by William L. Anderson, Mises Daily, 19 Jun 2006
"The way that US attorneys work is that they pry guilty pleas from lower-level employees ... That the charges generally are nebulous or do not reflect mens rea, which used to be the bedrock of US criminal law, is irrelevant to federal prosecutors, who simply are playing to win by using all 'tools' Congress and the federal courts have given them."
John Locke: Natural Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Aug 1996
Extensive biographical essay, including summaries of his major works
"'Reason, which is that Law,' Locke declared, 'teaches all Mankind, who would but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his Life, Health, Liberty, or Possessions.' Locke envisioned a rule of law: 'have a standing Rule to live by, common to every one of that Society, and made by the Legislative Power erected in it; A Liberty to follow my own Will in all things, where the Rule prescribes not; and not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, Arbitrary Will of another Man.'"
Rule of Law Damaged by Schiavo Bill, by Sheldon Richman, 23 Mar 2005
Discusses the implications of the hurried legislation, passed by Congress and signed by President Bush, to allow the parents of Terri Schiavo to have federal courts another look at her case, after state courts had ruled
"In the end, the bill probably won't prolong Terri Schiavo's life. But it may well cut short the rule of law. It is no defense of the Republicans to say that a young woman was being starved to death. Congress has no constitutional authority to exercise arbitrary power any time an emergency catches its attention, especially where there are no federal or constitutional issues at stake. That it is legally restrained from doing whatever it wants is part of what we mean by the rule of law."
The Case for Impeachment: Why we can no longer afford George W. Bush, by Lewis H. Lapham, Harper's Magazine, 27 Feb 2006
Editorial discussing John Conyer's Dec 2005 resolution seeking establishment of a congressional committee to, among other things, "make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment" of George W. Bush, and the bases for taking such action
"On December 19 ... Senator Robert Byrd (D., W.Va.) issued a statement saying that 'we are a nation of laws and not men ...' ... Bruce Fein, former associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, said of President Bush that he 'presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law' ... The heavy volume of angry protest on the Internet ... suggests that at least half of the American electorate ... knows that the Bush Administration operates without reference to the rule of law, also that the President believes himself somehow divinely ordained, accountable only to Jesus and the oil companies ..."
The Constitution and the Rule of Law, by Jacob Hornberger, Aug 1992
Unjust Immigration Law Is Not Law, by Sheldon Richman, 21 Nov 2014
Considers President Obama's decision to defer deportation of some undocumented immigrants, although three years ago he had said he lacked such authority
"In 'The Myth of the Rule of Law,' legal philosopher and libertarian John Hasnas argues that since no legal language is exempt from interpretation, law can't be determinate. Another legal scholar and libertarian, Randy Barnett, agrees, at least to some extent. He calls law 'underdeterminate.' ... 'The fact is that there is no such thing as a government of law and not people,' Hasnas concludes."
What the Martha Stewart Case Means to You, by Harry Browne, 5 Mar 2004
Examines the Martha Stewart insider trading case, including juror and prosecutor comments after the guilty verdict
"But I care deeply about the kind of country America has turned into — one in which there is no firm rule of law and anyone can be prosecuted at any time for any kind of offense that the government wants to invent. ... the case ... rested on the testimony of a man who changed his story in order to free himself from the wrath of the United States Government. ... So here we are in modern America — a place where anyone can be charged with anything. And if there's no law against what you've done, the prosecutor can call it 'conspiracy,' 'obstruction of justice,' or 'lying to investigators' because you claimed to be innocent."
Related Topics: War on Drugs, Founding Fathers
Why No Indictment for Bernard Kerik?, by Jacob Hornberger, 15 Dec 2004
"... the 'rule of law' ... means ... that a free society entails everyone's having to answer only to a law that has been duly enacted and is clearly on the books, as compared with a society based on the 'rule of men,' where people are expected to respond to the arbitrary and capricious dictates of government officials."

Cartoons and Comic Strips

@#*! Backseat Driver!, by Nick Anderson, 15 Jun 2008
Decider, by Mark Fiore, 10 May 2006
Related Topic: George W. Bush


The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law, by Randy Barnett, 1998
Partial contents: Liberty vs. License - Using Resources - The Liberal Conception of Justice - The Partiality Problem - The Incentive Problem - The Compliance Problem - The Problem of Enforcement Error - Fighting Crime Without Punishment

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Rule of law" as of 16 Nov 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.