rule


Written By: Ehsan Jahandarpour

The rule of law (also known as nomocracy) is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to arbitrary decisions by individual government officials. It primarily refers to the influence and authority of law within society, particularly as a constraint upon behavior, including behavior of government officials.The Oxford English Dictionary has defined “rule of law” this way: The authority and influence of law in society, esp. when viewed as a constraint on individual and institutional behaviour; (hence) the principle whereby all members of a society (including those in government) are considered equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes. See “Civil Affairs and Rule of Law”, Dudley Knox Library, Naval Postgraduate School (accessed October 18, 2013) (quoting the OED). The phrase “rule of law” is also sometimes used in other senses. See Garner, Bryan A. (Editor in Chief). Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th Edition, p. 1448. (Thomson Reuters, 2009). ISBN 978-0-314-26578-4. The lead definition given by Black’s is this: “A substantive legal principle”, and the second definition is the “supremacy of regular as opposed to arbitrary power”. Black’s provides a total of five definitions of “rule of law”. The phrase can be traced back to 16th century England, and it was popularized in the 19th century by British jurist A. V. Dicey. The concept was familiar to ancient philosophers such as Aristotle, who wrote “Law should govern”. Rule of law implies that every citizen is subject to the law, including law makers themselves. In this sense, it stands in contrast to an autocracy, collective leadership, dictatorship, or oligarchy where the rulers are held above the law (which is not necessary by definition but which is typical). Lack of the rule of law can be found in democracies and dictatorships, and can happen because of neglect or ignorance of the law, corruption, or lack of corrective mechanisms for administrative abuse, such as an independent judiciary with a rule-of-law culture, a practical right to petition for redress of grievances, or elections.