The rule of law is a myth

published Feb 13, 2009, last modified Jun 26, 2013

To the extent this phrase suggests a society in which all are governed by neutral rules that are objectively applied by judges, there is no such thing.

As a myth, however, the concept of the rule of law is both powerful and dangerous. Its power derives from its great emotive appeal. The rule of law suggests an absence of arbitrariness, an absence of the worst abuses of tyranny. The image presented by the slogan "America is a government of laws and not people" is one of fair and impartial rule rather than subjugation to human whim. This is an image that can command both the allegiance and affection of the citizenry. After all, who wouldn't be in favor of the rule of law if the only alternative were arbitrary rule? But this image is also the source of the myth's danger. For if citizens really believe that they are being governed by fair and impartial rules and that the only alternative is subjection to personal rule, they will be much more likely to support the state as it progressively curtails their freedom.

Fantastic read.

People are more willing to support the exercise of authority over themselves when they believe it to be an objective, neutral feature of the natural world. This was the idea behind the concept of the divine right of kings. By making the king appear to be an integral part of God's plan for the world rather than an ordinary human being dominating his fellows by brute force, the public could be more easily persuaded to bow to his authority. However, when the doctrine of divine right became discredited, a replacement was needed to ensure that the public did not view political authority as merely the exercise of naked power. That replacement is the concept of the rule of law [...] It allows people to hide the agency of power behind a facade of words; to believe that it is the law which compels their compliance, not self-aggrandizing politicians, or highly capitalized special interests, or wealthy white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males, or _______________ (fill in your favorite culprit). .

All in all, if you thought that in your country the Rule of Law was supreme and the Rule of Men was a thing of the past, it's time you woke up to the countless abuses and abominations that take place when the laws are created, when the laws are applied, by the judges that apply them, et al.  Laws are made by people that are equally (or in all likelihood even more) corrupt than you.  Laws are applied by people that are more corrupt than you.  Laws are applied differently whether you're a ruler or a peasant.  And "The Rule of Law" is just a myth to keep you from seeing all the injustice that takes place in its name.

So don't be fooled: The Rule of Law is merely The Rule of Men, in disguise.