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Rule Of Law

  The rule of law is frequently little more than a rhetorical phrase, although it does embody a widely valued ideal. Enthusiasts for the rule of law emphasize the certainty and predictability of legal rules, their generalizability and lack of scope for discretion, and their durability and absence of contradiction. Whether any set of legal rules contain these properties may be sensibly questioned by anybody who is cognitively competent.

However, most importantly the ideal of the rule of law holds that what is fundamentally important about the ideal of the rule of law is its universal application both to law-makers and those subject to legal rules. Where rulers are not themselves subject to the rule of law then absolutism, authoritarianism, despotism or totalitarianism are facilitated. The requirement that both rulers and the ruled be accountable to the law is of unquestionable value especially for modern democrats. However, many democrats are sceptical about whether all societies necessarily benefit from other facets of what is invoked under the rule of law. They may be constrained by the rule of law from doing what is right; they may be constrained by ‘juridification’ (judges entering an area previously left to politicians or others); and they may be impaired by ‘legalism’; that is, excessive veneration of the law and its procedures which inhibits independent assessment of the merits of a given policy proposal. BO\'L

See also democracy; legal positivism; liberalism; natural law.Further reading J.W. Harris, Legal Philosophies.



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