'The Rule of Law'

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 27 2006 09:07
'The Rule of Law'

OK, I'm bored at work so I thought I'd start a thread ...

This thread about the 'march for free expression' randomly derailed into a debate about 'the rule of law'. For a taster ...

martinh wrote:
I don't think the rule of law is actually that bad a concept. It's a political term meaning that the law applies to everyone, i.e. no one is above the law
Joseph K. wrote:
If there's some ethical principle behind the law; JS Mill's harm principle or Kant's categorical imperative for example, then that is what is worth defending (not that I necessarily accept these ethical systems)

Since 'the rule of law' is a broadly accepted concept and anarchism demands no rule (though not no rules), it seems like an interesting topic. Or maybe I am just bored. Its not something I've read much about from an anarcho perspective so I've been making it up as I go along grin

blah blah blah discuss etc...

martinh
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Mar 27 2006 09:41

I think we should be clear what we mean by it, as there is room for disagreement and misunderstanding.

I take it to mean that everyone is equal before the law, i.e. those who are rulers, or involved in law enforcement, are subject to the same laws as the rest of us.

In practice this is an ideal, but it seems to me that we do regularly use this concept in campaigns we are involved in, for instance where we would join in calls for justice for vicitms of police violence, or who have been fitted up, etc. It also seems to cut across almost all of society - few would dispute it IMO, and usually for reactionary reasons (like women not being paid the same as men because they can have babies).

I don't think it's something to be elevated into a great principle, but I do think it's a useful starting point for understanding where the state comes from, as well as being something that can at times be turned to our advantage.

But hey, I'm open to persuasion! wink

Regards,

martin

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 27 2006 10:09
martinh wrote:
I take it to mean that everyone is equal before the law, i.e. those who are rulers, or involved in law enforcement, are subject to the same laws as the rest of us.

In practice this is an ideal

I'd say 'the rule of law' and 'equality before the law' are two different (but closely related) concepts - after all private property is a relationship of exclusion which cannot be enjoyed equally by all, but it's maintenence is a central purpose of the rule of law.

I agree that equality before the law is preferable to inequality; liberalism is preferable to despotism. I think where we differ is that wherever there is 'rule' by seemingly impersonal institutions like law (or 'the market'), I would argue that there is always a very real minority of people who actually excercise that rule, or at least exist symbiotically with it.

Thats why I look to 'self defence' as an ethical principle which achieves practically the objective of equality before the 'law' whilst dispensing with rule - 'anarchist law' perhaps. Does that even make sense? grin