Just What Does Rule of Law Mean?

Just What Does Rule of Law Mean?

(ConservativeJournal.org) – Laws are an obvious necessity in society; when they’re not properly enforced, chaos usually ensues. We often hear this concept discussed in the context of the “rule of law,” with political candidates attempting to position themselves as greater proponents of this than their rivals.

The phrase has proven to be a useful catchphrase in interviews and debates over the years, but it’s not always clear what people mean when they say it. For example, does it refer to stricter enforcement of existing laws or the drafting of entirely new laws? These distinctions are rarely explored in detail.

Principles of the Rule of Law in the United States

The US Courts website states there are four key principles of the rule of law in our country. Laws should be;

  • Publicly promulgated
  • Equally enforced
  • Independently adjudicated, and
  • Consistent with international human rights principles

Publicly Promulgated

The requirement for public promulgation simply means items of law must be publicly enacted, declared and published so that all members of society can see and understand them.

Equally Enforced

Equal enforcement is one of the founding principles of the law in any liberal democracy. Regardless of race, gender, religion or social standing, everyone should receive the same treatment in a court of law.

Independently Adjudicated

As part of our system of checks and balances, the judiciary is an independent body. This autonomy allows it to rule impartially on matters involving government bodies.

It also means judges should not have any biases when making rulings and base their decisions on the relevant legal principles, not their personal feelings. This principle is closely related to the requirement for equal enforcement.

International Human Rights Principles

Since the second half of the 20th Century, there has been an increased focus on international human rights standards. Agreed to in 1948, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) remains the most important treaty in this area; it rests on principles like interdependence, universality, and equality.

What Does the Rule of Law Mean in Politics?

Generally, when a political candidate says they believe in “the rule of law,” it means they favor a tough approach to crime and punishment. By setting and enforcing strict laws, they disincentivize illegal behavior and enable law-abiding society members to prosper in peace. This interpretation is typically a Conservative ideal.

However, as noted above, the rule of law should not focus on punishment, but on the law’s fair and equal application. Politicians, both Left and Right, often use the phrase to promote the former while completely disregarding the latter.

Copyright 2021, ConservativeJournal.org