Rule of Law Essay

3702 Words15 Pages
The difference between "rule by law" and "rule of law" is important. Under the rule "by" law, law is an instrument of the government, and the government is above the law. In contrast, under the rule "of" law, no one is above the law, not even the government. The core of "rule of law" is an autonomous legal order. Under rule of law, the authority of law does not depend so much on law's instrumental capabilities, but on its degree of autonomy, that is, the degree to which law is distinct and separate from other normative structures such as politics and religion. As an autonomous legal order, rule of law has at least three meanings. First, rule of law is a regulator of government power. Second, rule of law means equality before law. Third, rule of law means procedural and formal justice. We will take up these meanings of rule of law one by one. First, as a power regulator, rule of law has two functions: it limits government arbitrariness and power abuse, and it makes the government more rational and its policies more intelligent. The opposite of rule of law is rule of person. There are two kinds of rule of person. The first kind is "rule of the few persons," examples of which include tyranny and oligarchy. The second kind of rule of person is "rule of the many persons," an example of which is the ancient Greek democracies. The common feature of rule of person is the ethos that "what pleases the ruler(s) is law." That is, under rule of person, there is no limit to what the rulers (the government) can do and how they do things. In contrast, a key aspect of rule of law is "limitation;" i.e., rule of law puts limits on the discretionary power of the government, including the power to changes laws. This is why the western juridical tradition is Roman, not Greek. One of the major problems of ancient Greek democracy is that its conception of law does not contain the

More about Rule of Law Essay

Open Document