The Rule of Law is not well defined. It needs to be. The lack of a definition lends to its use as an epithet for whatever the speaker wants it to mean. It also inhibits the study of the rule of Law, its aspects and its effects. Study will test and refine the rule. Study will allow predictions of its effects to be tested. Assuming its benefits can be predicted and verified the Rule of Law will be validated as the fundamental value which sets one nation above another in its recognition of both human rights and economic success.
A fair justice system founded in tolerance and integrity guarantees the rights of individuals against the government, the powerful, and the many. The Rule of Law provides that tolerance and integrity. It gives respect to both personal rights and property rights. Because these rights are the primary incentive for achievement, they bring to the nations that follow the Rule of Law economic and political success as well.
The Rule of Law is a process consisting of five essential elements:
- Fair Access. The justice system is reasonably open and available to all, and does not impose oppressive burdens on the participants;
- Fair courts. The courts exhibit tolerance and integrity. They are competent, and efficient. Judges are impartial and independent, randomly assigned, and not subject to political influence or manipulation
- Fair Laws. The laws are public, clear and reasonable when applied to human experience;
- Fair Administration. The administrative branch, prosecutors, and police, are reasonably fair, competent, and efficient; and
- All are subject to the law. Government officials including the President, Supreme Court and the Congress, consent to being subject to the law. The Rule of Law process depends on the constant application of tolerance and integrity through a political system founded on these five necessary elements. Each country implementing the Rule of Law will produce its own legislation, administrative methods and judicial decisions. Each system while based upon the same five elements will be formed to the particular time, culture and circumstance where it is implemented. By fostering and promoting the process which is the Rule of Law, no matter what the place or time, all societies can benefit from its implementation.
Some challenge the Rule of Law as peculiar to the Western world or not suitable to all cultures. Some see the current success of the nations which follow the Rule of Law as chance, good fortune or a mere shifting in the vagaries of history. If the process (the Rule of Law) has inherent value, it should be possible to show a direct relationship between the integrity with which a nation enforces the Rule of Law and the success, economic and otherwise, of that nation. For example, one might predict a correlation between the number of attorneys in a country and that country”s economic standing. The extent of the independence of the judiciary or of individual rights could also be tested to see whether they correlate to economic success.
© Kenneth G. Petrulis