I’m written quite a bit about the Rule of Law on this blog. I’ve come to see it as the cornerstone of my political views – this belief that, as Thomas Paine famously asserted in his Common Sense:
For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.
This distinction – between the holder of power and the law – is one of the fundamental insights of our Founding Fathers – and one that the Bush administration treated with contempt – a contempt I am loathe to attribute to conservatives in general, but one which far too many for my comfort seem to share.
Protecting the Rule of Law is what I (along with Philip Bobbitt) propose that the Wars Against Terrorism must focus primarily on.
One of the primary reasons I believe the War on Drugs must end is to protect the Rule of Law.
My criticisms of the Bush administration’s War on Terror arise largely from their abuse of the Rule of Law – from asserting unchecked presidential authority to attempting to evade any laws by creating a prison in Guantanamo to flagrantly committing felonies even after being advised as such by the attorney general and FBI director.
I believe Bush’s War on Terror evolved all too quickly into a war on the Rule of Law itself, as one of the few remaining checks on presidential power.
It is why I believe that men and women who knowingly attempted to undermine the Rule of Law, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent allowed by the law.
Perhaps the reason I have been so attracted to this concept as a fundamental principle is that it is not an absolute one – but instead requires a balancing test. Rather than focusing on liberty or equality – both of which are important principles that must be balanced against other principles to avoid becoming the justification for great evils, the concept of the Rule of Law itself is a balancing test between anarchy and authoritarianism, between justice and legality, between what is needed and what can be done.
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