If history teaches anything, it is that human well-being and progress—indeed, civilization itself—depend on the rule of law. For when the rules of human conduct are unjust, arbitrary, or ever changing, people simply cannot plan their affairs with any confidence that today's rules will apply tomorrow.
Unfortunately, American law and legal institutions have become increasingly uncertain and unstable over the course of the 20th century as statutory law has come increasingly to replace common law and as common law itself has become increasingly politicized. That pattern has only increased under the Bush-Clinton regime, which has proposed countless programs that enjoy no support under the Constitution, has drawn more and more power into the executive branch, and has exercised that power often with minimal respect for due process or legal principles.
For more on these subjects, click here for Cato Institute symposium.
Breakdown of “the rule of law” in government is a result of the loss of respect for law among the People, as Thomas Sowell explains. When the People adopt a mob mentality, the government uses “the rule of law” as a justification for tyranny.
One of the most ridiculous examples of political ignorance was the recent banning of the Ten Commandments in Alabama. Pundits like Rush Limbaugh pontificated on how Judge Roy Moore violated "the rule of law" by ignoring the utterly unconstitutional edict of a federal judge.
"The Rule of Law" is the idea that we are "A government of laws, not of men." The rule of law is the rule of principle, rather than whim. In The Road to Serfdom, Professor of Economics and Nobel laureate F. A. Hayek says the Rule of Law
means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand --- rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances and to plan one's individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge."
Not a single person who signed the Constitution, helped ratify the Constitution, or even read the constitution prior to 1947 could have foreseen that the federal government could order the State of Alabama to remove the Ten Commandments from public display. The First Amendment reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
Implicit in this Amendment is that the federal judiciary shall make no similar law, though it was never imagined that the judiciary would be making laws as it does today.
The Ten Commandments is the basis of American Law. Thus it could not have been anticipated that a state court or legislature would ever ban their public display, much less that a federal judge would do so. The federal government had no power in the area of religion, and no state government would ever use its power to undermine true religion.
Everything about the event is utterly unconstitutional:
- A judge making a law
- A federal judge making a law
- A federal judge making a law regarding religion
- A federal judge making a law banning the Ten Commandments
is absolutely the most unprincipled decision any of the Founding Fathers could have imagined. Unforeseen. Preposterous. Proof that the Constitution is now a myth, as is "the rule of law."
In a sense even "the rule of law" was a myth. The idea that ours is a "government of laws, not of men" is a fallacy. The Founding Fathers agreed that bad men corrupt good laws. Good men will rule well in the absence of good laws. A man of integrity, virtue, and the Character of Christ with little political experience is to be preferred over a "seasoned politician" who despises God's Commandments. Read their words.
In any case, we are clearly now A Government of Unprincipled Men. And under such circumstances, we must say, To HELL with "The Rule of Law"!
The Myth of the "Rule of Law"
Because legislators and judges are required to take an oath, and an oath is a promise made to God, most of American's Founders believed that only Christians should hold political office. If you have people with differing religions, differing systems of morality, differing worldviews, then the "rule of law" means nothing. An atheist committed to state socialism will not make the same laws, enforce the same laws, or interpret laws the same way as a Christian committed to reducing statist violence.
Even if an atheist and a Christian operate by the same laws of logic, they start out with differing premises. Starting with contradictory premises, one can "logically" reach contradictory conclusions.
Moreover, in a legal system such as ours, (visiting professor at Duke University Law School and a first-rate legal philosopher, John] Hasnas writes, there is inevitably a host of “incompatible, contradictory rules and principles…. This means that a logically sound argument can be found for any legal conclusion.” (Hasnas gives several examples.) “Because the law is made up of contradictory rules that can generate any conclusion,” Hasnas writes, “what conclusion one finds will be determined by what conclusion one looks for, i.e., by the hypothesis one decides to test. This will invariably be the one that intuitively ‘feels’ right, the one that is most congruent with one’s antecedent, underlying political and moral beliefs. Thus, legal conclusions are always determined by the normative
assumptions of the decisionmaker…. [I]t is impossible to reach an objective decision based solely on the law. This is because the law is always open to interpretation and there is no such thing as a normatively neutral interpretation. The way one interprets the rules of law is always determined by one’s underlying moral and political beliefs.”
Sheldon Richman, "The Rule of Lore" | Foundation for Economic Education
Moral and political beliefs are determined by one's "religion."