The Rule of Law — Letter #2
You’re right, it feels great to start a discussion about something new and fresh.
And what a topic! Something that feels granted, but that actually few people deeply understand. I get what direction you’re trying to go with, but I feel it’s important to first acknowledge that the Rule of Law is one of our civilization’s greatest foundations. I think this is important because it can give us hints about further thoughts on potential exciting new foundations.
I agree with you that this is not the place to discuss the “how”, but the “why”. The “why” behind laws and regulations I think it’s to formalize and turn practical a number of objective truths a society values. For instance, if we believe killing is evil and goes directly against key values such as life and liberty, it means killing should be not only forbidden, but constantly so. This means that making killing not forbidden shouldn’t be at the discretion of a particular person (usually a ruler of some kind), but it would require an enormous consensus to change it.
Of course that societies had to come up with a mechanism for making these laws, which is in itself a tremendous power. Here lies the potential philosophical paradox about Rule of Law and Rule of Power, in the sense that if you fail to limit the power of those creating the laws, you may end up with Rule of Power disguised as Rule of Law.
Furthermore, having Rule of Law is a necessary but not sufficient condition to a functional society. How it affects our daily lives has much to do with what are the laws that rule.
It’s interesting that you mention other possible “Rules”. I think that a “Rule of Markets” may be approachable more or less in the same terms, as it relates to some important philosophical concepts, such as freedom. It’s funny to think that, conceptually, it’s really hard to back something opposite to free markets. Why would someone get in the way of two or more parties that voluntarily want to engage on some kind of exchange? This is actually related to the Rule of Law and is no coincidence that the concept of free markets often requires an appropriate Rule of Law to be executed. Only some kind of Rule of Power would oppose a free market and it does exist, even in societies supposedly run by Rule of Law. An example would be a government forcing a specific kind of contract between two parties, even is that’s bad for both parties. Of course, this kind of behavior is an use of power on behalf of other party, that feels threatened. I would go a step further and say that most of the laws and regulations fall into this category.
To sum up, your point is very pertinent, because as I pointed Rule of Law is only good if the laws are good. The most common thing in the world is to see Rule of Power disguised as Rule of Law, which in many cases is even worse. There has to be something more to this.
What do you think that is?