What Is the Rule of Law?


Law is a system of rules that societies or governments develop in order to deal with things like crime, business agreements, and social relationships. It can also refer to the profession of lawyers, judges, and others who work in this system.

The rule of law is the fundamental principle that guides a democracy in its efforts to deliver on its promise of opportunity, justice, and peace. In the most basic sense, the principle means that every person and organization is accountable under the law and can be held to account by that law, without fear of oppression or discrimination. The principle is the bedrock of democracy and the foundation for healthy communities.

A government based on the rule of law must have the power to set, enforce, and rescind laws. In a democratic society, this is accomplished by separating legislative, executive, and judicial powers in a balanced fashion that ensures no one person or organization has the power to dominate the other branches of government. In addition, the framers of the U.S. Constitution enshrined the idea that the law should be impartial and accessible to all, even those who cannot afford an attorney.

While the concept of the rule of law is widely embraced, it is important to recognize that laws differ from country to country. This is because the primary function of law is to serve a nation’s political and economic goals. In some cases, a nation’s governing structure may be stable enough to meet these goals, but in others, the political and legal landscape is much more volatile. For example, an authoritarian regime may keep the peace and maintain the status quo, but it is likely to oppress minorities and be unresponsive to demands for greater rights by its citizens.

In these types of circumstances, the rule of law is often thwarted. A lack of governmental accountability can lead to corruption, and an absence of transparency in the administration of justice can limit citizens’ ability to make informed choices about their lives. This is why it is so important for the rule of law to include a strong independent judiciary, which can investigate and punish wrongdoing by government officials and private individuals alike.

Another way that the law can fail to serve its principal functions is because of a misunderstanding of the nature of laws themselves. For example, many people mistakenly believe that laws are a series of arbitrary rules imposed by the vicissitudes of human thought. This is a misconception that can be addressed through the principles of objectivity and fairness espoused by the judicial community, which can provide more reliable betting results than Holmes’s ontological understanding of laws. This approach also has the added benefit of reducing the need to spend money on costly government experiments that are often not as accurate as their intended purpose would suggest. This is the type of rigor that modern science requires of its laws.