Why the Rule of Law Matters

Why the Rule of Law Matters

(HorizonPost.com) – Many people will often cite the “rule of law” when talking about society and how it ought to operate. This is especially the case as of late. But, what exactly is entailed when someone references this concept?

In short, the rule of law states that every participant in society, whether it be individuals, the government, or other entities, are “equally subject to publicly-disclosed legal codes and processes,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s a social agreement stating everyone should be held equally accountable to a set of clearly-defined rules knowable to all.

Historically, this concept dates back to Aristotle of ancient Greece, who said “It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens.” During the 16th and 17th centuries, the rule of law was later used to challenge the previously-dominant form of governance known as the divine right of kings. Instead of one individual dictating how society should function, we have a set of rules and regulations everyone should abide by.

To bring the rule of law to a more modern context, here’s how various judges in the US describe what it means:

The next question someone might ask is, why bother with the rule of law?

Structure and Consistency

One primary reason is that abiding by a set of laws brings structure, consistency, and predictability to society. By having a universal set of rules, we can expect similar outcomes when one breaks the law. By contrast, the fate of that same individual would be at the whim of a single person under the divine right of kings. This is inherently less predictable and stable, as the outcome of any given case could change depending on the king’s mood that day.

For example, if someone breaks the law right now, we can all expect the same, or at least very similar, outcomes. Speeding in a vehicle, theft, or physical violence, for example, all have consequences, though they may differ slightly between legal jurisdictions. Still, the fact that there are relatively universal punishments for transgressions against the law removes any fleeting contributors when passing judgement.

The rule of law affects everything from criminal cases, traffic laws, and ensuring that currency functions. It makes society predictable and stable, giving us the confidence to plan and go about our lives.

Peace and Safety

Through this consistency brought about by the rule of law comes peace and safety. If we all understand there are sufficient consequences for harming others or doing wrong, and the law will be upheld, we can feel safer in society. Individuals won’t be incentivized to rob whatever and whomever they please because they, and everyone else, know the consequences of their actions.

Some might argue that we cannot have peaceful interaction with each other at all without the rule of law.

Without this concept, society might function much differently than it does now and probably not in a good way. By having a set of universally-applied rules and guidelines, society can continue to function and justice can continue to be fair.

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