Firstly, it would be good to know what is (all) considered ‘just’. Secondly, thirdly, fourthly, it would be good to have creators of valid laws, those who will implement them properly, and those who will respect them properly.
Life, however, offers different solutions.
Every once in a while there comes a time to change the terminology at our disposal. This is particularly true during this time of a collective fear of death, which is, incidentally, divided into a fear of disease, and fear of vaccine against disease transmission. And of course, we’re mostly sitting at home, not much else we can do.
This time is, therefore, ideal for us to question and reconsider the words and expressions we use in our speech, discussions, fantasies… One of those being this ‘rule of law’. Because this rule of law, or lawful state, whatever you want to call it – seems to cause us a bit of trouble. So, let us try and shed some light.
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We’ve had the opportunity, at least as far as the author of this column is concerned, to hear the phrase: ‘It’s all legal, pure as the driven snow!’ From an ethical perspective, this sentence seems to often be the very opposite to the naive ‘Everything must be according to the law!’
From the perspective of common sense, which is the perspective of the majority of us non-lawyers, it would be nice if Everything was According to the Law, and not according to someone’s personal or, God forbid, lucrative decisions. Then again, from the perspective of those who are afraid that some of their unjust actions could also become illegal, ‘everything according to the law’ changes meaning.
It covers the careful reconciliation between the degree of injustice and legal loopholes, which the legislator has negligently or intentionally left open, so that any crime can be committed, in accordance with the paragraphs. Therefore, it seems that it’s not only important whether the laws restrict the state in its repression or the individual citizen in their crime, but also who enacts them, how and why. As a reminder, the Nazis brought on the Nuremberg Race Laws, and when it comes to their view on racial equality, the sentence ‘everything is according to the law’ had probably one of its most monstrous uses.
In that sense, the presumption for the ‘rule of law’ is the ‘rule of the right’ or rather the ‘rule of the lawful’. Will you look at that, we changed the term we are at hand and replaced it with two new ones. Funny what some word play will do.
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Once again from a layman’s point of view – and we aren’t really equipped for any other – it somehow seems that several important things are needed for the rule under consideration here. Firstly, it would be good to know what’s (all) considered ‘just’. Secondly, thirdly, fourthly, it would be good to have creators of valid laws, those who will implement them properly, and those who will respect them properly.
Life, however, offers different solutions. For a start, we don’t have that much time to get granular about what is ‘just’, because we spend so much of it noting down the unjust. Then, law creation became a very cruel relative to the writing of history over time: the winner, or the one winning, has the right to write his own Rules, which those who lost would be obliged to follow. The same manifestation of power sets up and governs those who enforce the Rules.
And finally, respecting the Rules is a sort of consequential attitude towards the Conqueror. He who has come to terms with the state of things will respect the law either out of fear or capitulation. He who hasn’t finds the above-mentioned “loopholes”. Or he doesn’t really care for imprisonment. Or he would have broken the law even if he’d written it himself, he’s just that type of guy. Criminal universalis.
With all this in mind, a lawful state requires at least three things: the right state, the right statesmen and the right citizens. Once again we did a little word play, and we got good results. Which is to say, if we are to draw conclusions too quickly – or just as quickly as required by the length of this column – before establishing the rule of law, it’d be a good idea to establish the rule of the right words. Not to be confused with the imprecise meanings of expressions that we have accepted perhaps mostly because we use them too often.