History Friday: The Rule of Law

[The Rule of Law] means in the first place, the absolute supremacy or predominance of regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power, and excludes the existence of arbitrariness, of prerogative, or even of wide discretionary authority on the part of the government …. It means, again, equality before the law, or the equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law of the land administered by the ordinary courts … [and], lastly,… that, in short, the principles of private law have with us been by the action of the courts and Parliament so extended as to determine the position of the Crown and of its servants; thus the constitution is the result of the ordinary law of the land.

Albert Venn Dicey, Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (1885)

Restated, Dicey says the Rule of Law consists of: (1) disallowing arbitrary power, restricting the use of power to what is permitted by law, (2) treating all person to the exact same law, in the same courts, without regard to their status, and (3) treating the officers of the government to exactly the same law as everybody else.

Nota bene: Each of these elements is crumbling before our eyes in America in 2013. In particular, Mr. Obama’s arbitrary use of executive power, unmoored from legal foundation, is literally frightening.

The Rule of Law is a standard we must demand and enforce as citizens. To the extent it has decayed, it must be restored. Any reform platform must include provisions to restore each of these features.

17 thoughts on “History Friday: The Rule of Law”

  1. America now is suffering the terrible illness ancient to man of Predatory Government motivated by malice. This is ancient to man, just new to America.

  2. VXXC — agreed. So, we have to resist and prevail. People all over the country are doing so in whatever ways are available to them. The end of the drama is not yet written.

  3. We don’t actually have Laws as commonly understood. It is a tactical, operational and strategic fatal series of errors to refer to something sacralized as if it still exists, when something malevolently profane has taken it’s place.

    We’re well beyond legal, it’s a political problem. It must be defined as such.

    More – enough of resist. Seek Victory or submit quietly.

  4. VXXC, I am getting the itch to delete your stuff as a matter of policy. You are not adding value to the conversation. This: “Seek Victory or submit quietly.” Yet another condescending thing to say. I will use whatever means I deem proper to advance political causes I believe in. Whatever it is you think you want to do, I suggest you discuss it somewhere else in the future.

  5. I thought it was telling that no one involved (to my knowledge) was tried or imprisoned for the financial collapse calamity. I thought TARP, as a remedy, was a completely illegal theft of money from the American people into the banking system. Not a loan to be paid back. Taken from us, given to them. Gone.

    I think Lois Lerner should be brought up on charges for the felonies she directed against Americans.

    I think the head of NSA should be brought up on charges for illegal search and wire tapping.

    Why do political appointees routinely lie to Congress with no repercussions?

    How can a president simply decide not to enforce immigration laws?

    Why are FOIA requests and Congressional subpoenas routinely ignored?

    The answer to all of the above is because no one in the ruling class WANTS the ruling class held accountable, because they wish to reserve for themselves the right to commit crimes and walk away afterwards when they are in power. The entire system is corrupt. Not necessarily every individual, but the system as a whole, and certainly its leadership. Worse still, we may be entering the period of the imperial presidency.


  6. I have been puzzling over what is meant by the phrase rule of law for some time. The definition you give is, like many others, unsatisfactory. It is a procedural definition. It does not exclude a state where the minutest detail of life is regulated by a bureaucratic apparatus.

    Unless there is a stipulation as to the substance of the law, that it protects the life, liberty, property, and contract of individuals prior to the interest of the state, mere procedure, is not sufficient.

  7. Agree with everyone of Michael HIteshew’s examples. There are more. Agencies that are supposed to protect the public interest cannot execute their mandate because Congress exempts certain industries from following the law that everyone else must follow. The EPA, for example, cannot protect people from oil companies that pollute ground water by fracking.

    Guantanamo is another example of lawlessness.

    It is telling that I would named MH’s examples off the top of my head. They are so blatant. I am not sure our times are unique. This phenomenon goes up and down.

  8. Procedurally speaking…It will always be hard to go back to interpreting law as stated in standard English if it is no longer taught that words have specific meaning.

    Also, it is painfully apparent that ‘we’ the people were bamboozled into thinking that the law requires actual recourse for grievances brought for judgement based on ‘rule of law’ especially when the grievances are brought against the people who run the state that supposedly represents ‘us’. Impeachment was proven empty in the case of Bill Clinton, and the Legislators yak about Obummers illegal and anti-constitutional acts but do nothing to defend us…failing their oaths. Yes…WHAT to DO. We no longer live in the 17th century so as to have the Cromewellian prospect available. An our people in the majority by numbers are less educated so as to be able to understand their recourse.

    It would help, I think, if we stopped thinking that the government should be running the ups and downs of the economy…It has the effect of controlling the people too forcibly. Business should be left to do main-street and wall street and government to the people’s defense, both internationally and domestically. In this way both the poor and the wealty are able to freely create and do business without fear. Check out these ideas in Adams’ (et al) writings. SP

  9. VXXC, let’s be clear. You are advocating extralegal and extra-political action, i.e. crime.

    Your comments are deleted for that reason. Note our policy. Take it elsewhere.

  10. Hmmm, I have to admit a rather cynical (or at least ironic) image passes into my mind: “Lexington Green” (and what that moniker conjures up) telling a later day Samuel Adams to “take it elsewhere”. (‘course one can only speculate of what the firebrand had to say after the deletion is done.)

  11. Samuel Adams expressly said that once can choose your own government revolution is no longer permissible.

    So I am glad you singled him out.

    There are a lot of ways to not do anything useful. One is to say, it’s a waste of time, we’re doomed, and I smile condescendingly on you childish activists who think you can change anything. I despise that. Another is to say, this will end in armed violence, so quit with your foolishness.

    No. The point is to not let the country get to that point.

    We are not doomed. The future is unwritten.

    The fake sophistication of people who want to be excused from participation in political activity will not be provided with a platform on my posts.

    If you don’t like it, start your own blog.

  12. I imagine that S. Adams said that after the revolution….to argue for the preservation of the federal government (Shays rebellion, maybe?).

    Adams did say something like “It’s a glorious day!” upon hearing of the battle at Lexington,

    and, I’m guessing, he said

    ” If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen”
    ― Samuel Adams

    before the revolution.

    My previous comment was only to express a desire to hear from a view point, that (I admit) seems radical, not to argue for it: We can’t predict the future. I entirely agree with you – the future is unwritten. You’ll forgive me for saying that what seems radical today may not seem so five years hence.

  13. The Internet is a big place. You can go find any kind of points of view you want.

    If you think you are missing out, go find it somewhere else.

    This blog is private property. See our comment policy.

  14. And actually can’t let that pass..I quite defined as a political problem and not a legal one. I also pointed out the problem admits of no electoral solution – the system was designed and improved over 8 decades to ensure the government is quite immune from “politics” by which they mean “democracy”.

    I ruled out electoral politics, not politics. And I said the problem is quite beyond the “Law”. Lex the Law is the State by definition. And in our case we have the normal State of Man, the State is beyond any Law. The State Sir and not The People is Sovereign. That is what exists, not what should be, or even what it purports to be..

    This Sovereign is Criminal. That too is an ancient malady of Man. It’s new to America, so we’re learning it hard and for the first time.

    You may delete or denounce on your blog as you wish of course, it’s yours. One should always win arguments on one’s own property, that’s common decency.

    Merry Christmas anyway.

  15. Lex,

    In the spirit, if I let my savage judgment of the predatory state inflect my comments with sarcasm, it’s not directed towards you.

    I also mostly hang at DEC websites where it’s a bit snappier. So..guarded apology.

    I will try and just speak plainly. It still won’t be pretty, but I’ll try and keep any sarc out. If not I’ll sarc quote it…

    Happy New Year.

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