The Rule of Law

The Rule of Law

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Welcome to the best little strip mall in San
Clemente. It’s offers one-stop shopping for your pursuit of happiness, from condoms,
to beer, to bongs, cheap pizza, donuts, cigarettes, and lotto tickets. It’s got easy money if
you plan a shopping spree and tools of war if things head south in a hurry. Almost anybody
can find something to like here. More importantly though, almost anybody can find something
to dislike, to criticize as pornographic, addictive, and/or dangerous. And yet this
strip mall stands. It stands as a monument to the virtues of toleration, liberty, and
free trade. For all this, we can thank the rule of law. The rule of law, in its most basic form, guarantees
that we can reliably predict whether or not our actions will land us in court. The rule
of law thus requires that the public have ready access to the laws and that the laws
apply only prospectively, never retroactively. The rule of law means equality before the
law. No one can rise above it. Aristotle made the point thousands of years
ago, “The rule of law . . . is preferable to that of any individual. On the same principle,
even if it be better for certain individuals to govern, they should be made only guardians
and ministers of the law.” John Locke, in his Second Treatise, put the matter this way,
“Freedom of men under government is, to have a standing Rule to live by, common to
everyone of that Society, and made by the Legislative Power erected in it; a Liberty
to follow my own Will in all things, where the Rule prescribes not; and not to be subject
to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, Arbitrary Will of another man.” Thomas Paine, a political theorist, who gave
voice to the American revolution of 1776, made the point with characteristic vigor.
“In America, THE LAW IS KING.” Without the rule of law, this strip mall probably
wouldn’t even exist. If you can’t find, figure out, or predict the law, you won’t
invest in real estate, build up an inventory, or engage in long-term contracts. Indeed,
without the rule of law, you probably won’t risk more than simple barter. Is the rule of law simply a matter of procedure?
Or does it also concern the content of rules? Thinkers in the classical liberal tradition
have argued that if the rule of law means anything, it has to protect the individuals
against state power. Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich Hayek observed that the procedural
aspects of the rule of law shape its substance. The rule of law must protect individuals against
overarching state power, because otherwise, complete power will create complete confusion.
“When the government has to decide how many pigs are to be raised, or how many busses
are to be run, which coal mines are to operate, or at what prices shoes are to be sold, these
decisions cannot be deduced from formal principles or settled for long periods in advance. They
depend inevitably on the circumstances of the moment.” If the law tries to control
everything, it simply can’t nail down all the details. Hayek concluded that the rule
of law requires restraint on lawmakers and that this necessarily implies “recognition
of the inalienable right of the individual.” On that view, the rule of law means more than
simply filing out the proper forms. I leave you with a cautionary quote from James Madison,
one of those brave revolutionaries inspired by Thomas Paine. “It will be of little avail
to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous
that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be
repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no
man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined
to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known and less fixed?” You don’t have to approve of all the vices
served by this strip mall to appreciate that it stands for a big virtue, the rule of law.
The rule of law provides a necessary framework for civil society, allowing us to live together
in peace and prosperity. Because the rule of law allows each of us an individual choice,
we can each choose which of these vices, if any, to pursue. Me, I’m here for the haircuts.

49 thoughts on “The Rule of Law

  • V for Voluntary Library Post author

    If my individual rights are inalienable, then don't force me into your 'protection' scheme.

    You said without law (by which you mean: monopolistic law), there could only be simple barter. But from 'simple barter', any desired need can be built up. This is true for money, which arises without any planner, and can also be true for protection, reputation and arbitration. What is required for all this to work however is a widely held belief against violent monopolies. Your video argues the opposite.

  • Alexander Williams Post author

    Cunning and deeply important stuff.

  • V for Voluntary Library Post author

    @qtutoringhelps You have the right to protect yourself and your property from harm. You also have the right to ask others to help defend you. You do not have the right to force others to pay for your protection.

    See my video 'How Could A Voluntary Society Function?' ( watch?v=tE9dZATrFak ) to learn how a peaceful market for these things can develop.

  • Eitan Chatav Post author

    @Nielsio You're wrong, Professor Bell emphatically does not mean only monopolistic (statist) law. He has written extensively in favor of polycentric law.

  • bdrmongoose78 Post author

    Wow! Total propaganda, pushing for state power through "democracy"(majority rule).
    "…in America, THE LAW IS KING" ……well, since king is supreme power, then law is supreme power. and to think, I thought the CONSTITUTION was supposed to be "king", and was placed there to protect our inalienable rights.
    But then again, the united states of America, was formed as a REPUBLIC. Then they played the ol switch-a-roo and started teaching us we are a democracy. Grrrr.
    RON PAUL 2012

  • mtanousable Post author

    @bdrmongoose78 Stop furthering the stereotype of Paul supporters as blithering morons. If you understood the concept of the Rule of Law, as well as the ideas present in literature like Hayek's Road to Serfdom, you would see that you are arguing against yourself. The Constitution is a form of the Rule of Law, and this very argument was made in the Federalist Papers.

  • bdrmongoose78 Post author

    how do i even respond to that? are you a Ron Paul supporter?
    i was commenting on what i saw in the video…
    instead of calling me a blithering moron…..if i am wrong, help me understand why.
    and perhaps I could have worded what I meant better.
    So help me out….what is "law"? If law is whatever rules our governments decide to pass, then that turns the government into law, and we no longer have rule of law, but rule of government.
    The constitution istheruleof law for government

  • mtanousable Post author

    @bdrmongoose78 I am a classical liberal – I don't subscribe to labeling myself based on who I might support in elections. Furthermore, you have some lack of understanding about what the "law" actually is – by definition, the rules set up in place by the government. The concept of the Rule of Law is that those laws be just and apply equally to all, both the everyday people and the politically powerful.

    The Constitution, then, was to ensure the Rule of Law by setting up a just government.

  • bdrmongoose78 Post author

    I didn't ask for you to label yourself based on who you support in elections, I asked if you are a Ron Paul supporter. So do you?
    So if the concept of rule of law is that those laws be just and equally applied, then we do not live under rule of law. The constitution very well may have been set up to ensure the rule of law, but when the government does not abide by the constitution, we live by rule of force.
    Isn't it better to have civil debate to educate, than name calling?

  • bdrmongoose78 Post author

    1. That which is laid down, ordained, or established. A rule of method according to which phenomena or actions coexist or follow each other.
    2. A system of principles and rules of human conduct, being the aggregate of those commandments and principles which are either prescribed or recognized by the governing power in an organized jural society as its will in relation to the conduct of it's members of such society.

    Here is a question…Is common law part of/under rule of law?

  • mtanousable Post author

    @bdrmongoose78 Again, I don't label myself – I think Paul tends to be more principled and in line with my political philosophy, so I would consider voting for him.

    We don't live under the Rule of Law – haven't since about 1913. You just seem to be failing to get the difference between the concept of the Rule of Law and arbitrary laws.

  • mtanousable Post author

    @bdrmongoose78 The concept of the Rule of Law is independent of whether the law is common law, statutory law, or regulatory law. It is the concept that the law applies even to the "ruling class", is applied justly and fairly to all citizens and residents, and is not crafted to benefit certain interest groups. The easiest way to achieve this is to limit the law to following the non-aggression principle, and only prevent individuals from harming others.

  • bdrmongoose78 Post author

    There we go, now we are getting to the mis-communication that there was. I was under the impression that this video was implying that we do live under the rule of law, which is why I said what I said. Knowing that, I really don't think it's to hard to see where I was coming from. And hopefully we helped educate more blithering idiot Ron Paul supports than just me.

  • Bradley Dorrance Post author

    "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others…"

    I'll believe in the Rule of Law when Wall Street white collar thieves get similar prison terms and conditions as kids who rob convenience stores.

    I'm waiting…

  • Bradley Dorrance Post author

    I think the first mistake was enshrining hedonism in the constitution. What were they thinking? Compare to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

    "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person…"

    These rights can normally only be denied when the enforcement of "fundamental justice" is at issue. I believe this wording is balanced and more appropriate for a modern society – it was drafted in 1982.

  • mtanousable Post author

    @bgd1968 The wording is irrelevant. Empirically, there are three methods to "pursue happiness". The first is through action, which is the liberty to act according to your will, and this is in the list already. The next is thought (and related speech) – which is most of the First Amendment. The last is through ownership of property, and security of that property – the Fourth. Plus, how the hell do you define "fundamental justice" if it doesn't mean "stopping people from hurting each other"?

  • diskpanic Post author

    I don't get this backward "faux-libertarian" thought. There's nothing monopolistic about the legal system or government. It's what every society of human beings has ever used, from the smallest and most rudimentary to the largest and most complex. Want to know why? Because people NEED a common authority. Do you like to be ruled by the laws of a State or country that you don't reside in? No, of course not.

  • diskpanic Post author

    1:08 – The "rule" of law is not a new concept. That "faux-libertarian" anarchists continually rail against the law only shows what an lawless bunch of thugs anarchists are. Without a common social contract, society cannot exist, by definition. Without a government, there is no social contract. Get a grip. Oh, and by the way, money doesn't exist without a government. The only you'd have is commodity trading, via precious metals and gems, the value of which is debatable. Learn 2 Economics.

  • jbranstetter04 Post author

    You're about as stupid as a brick. We the people elect representatives in our state legislatures to write laws for us. What part of that does not sink into your thick brain? How else are the laws to be written, from the hand of God?

  • name not found Post author

    I've only watched 4 pre-roll ads to the end. This is one of them.

  • HettGutt Post author

    Fascist propaganda at its finest.

  • Jonathan Henry Post author

    I agree with everything Prof. Tom W. Bell said ๐Ÿ˜•

  • lil hog Post author

    Criticizing porn?

    On the internet?

    Pffft. Stopped listening right there, buddy.

  • DrewbusDumbledouche Post author

    I'm not sure I buy this – there were many points in history where dictators had established their own power and enforced their law against the will of the people. The people, naturally, couldn't stop them due to the power of the government at hand. There are many who can oppose a corrupt government, but simply don't due to fear of the consequences. I don't buy that people naturally decide to kill a certain group either, that seems to come at the consequence of leaders and local tension with them

  • DrewbusDumbledouche Post author

    But you're also assuming that all laws are naturally created by society itself, which they aren't. Are you seriously telling me that a law created by the likes of Stalin or Mao to be oppress others and keep themselves in power was something built as a consensus by society? Laws aren't necessarily built on consensus, if they were that'd be assuming everywhere in all times of history were a democracy. It's not unimaginable for leader to create oppressive laws and see the end to his life naturally.

  • DrewbusDumbledouche Post author

    Your point is….? My refutation was never whether or not your statement related to democracy or not. You haven't said anything to contradict my own statement.

    Whether or not capitalism is "good for the people" is HIGHLY arguable IMO, not one I'd certainly bother to argue about but it's worth saying that at the very least a nation can be fine under capitalistic principles.

  • RitzAdder Post author

    can i have my bong now?

  • DrewbusDumbledouche Post author

    Dude, what? You're totally arguing the strawman at this point. Fuck it, if you're too stupid to understand what my main argument was I'm not going to bother continue.

  • kev3d Post author

    Porn AND pizza? Count me IN.

  • nucosmoto Post author

    This does not stand for the rule of law, this video is dumb.
    Yes, we understand that there is a law, but WHAT KIND OF laws we want is the argued question.

  • Spiceking99 Post author

    I'm sorry but this video was worthless. I like learnliberty's videos but this is one of their flops

  • Steven B Post author

    You forgot the barber shop

  • CaniRapeYou Anal-ly Post author


  • SeanMC114 Post author

    Compelling argument.

  • Joseph Rissler Post author


  • michaeleweinberger Post author

    Professor Bell, Please do a video on Polycentrism!

  • nicscov Post author

    @Theartful, because in business laws there are three prominent structures of business. Sole ownership, partnership, and corporation. Sole Ownership is self explanatory. A partner can get into legal trouble even if he did nothing or was not aware of what his partner was doing. If your partner/employee did something wrong, your in trouble too and it's you who has to pay for it. In a corporation, the law says that the corporation is a separate entity. That is, if someone does something wrong…

  • nicscov Post author

    Continued… Wrong, the person responsible is in trouble, not the owners who had no idea.

  • YorktownUSA Post author

    Love this video.

  • Gavin Daily Post author

    Through the whole video I was thinking, "Wow, this guy needs a haircut!"

  • maggot1111666 Post author

    Accept when it allows for slavery, racism, over regulation, genocide, corporations, etc. Legality does not establish morality. LP

  • Sethbeastalan Post author

    Corporations do not inherently have more money than individuals, but they should not be treated the same as individuals.

  • Provoketruth Post author

    Great important concepts how the rule of law is to principled.
    The rule of law is not the origin of natural rights. Rights, which protection is the aim of social life, can only be protected under an organization with the rule of law.

  • JaysThoughts Post author

    "I should not be subject to the arbitrary will of another." -John Locke
    …. Except that's exactly what the law is.

  • 31T3 1337 N008 Post author

    This is why statism is so dangerous. If you concede arbitrary, unaccountable power to any entity, even if to a small degree, power becomes rampant and cancerous.

  • Trick Baby Post author

    Ethan Couch is the best example of the RULE OF LAW.

  • ๆฃฎ ๅคช็ฟ” Post author

    Why do they always stop at Aristotle when going back in history? Why not go a little bit further and show what other intellectuals have said about the rule of law? is it because they are non European, and if they did show them, that will destroy the narrative of the superiority of Europe, and America? Most of the ideas Aristotle had were copied of others, from India, Mesopotamia, Egypt etc.

  • darkstatehk Post author

    This is all well and good, but not in the abstract. At least for now perhaps. Let's hope the definitive morals of the true meaning of the Rule of Law will eventually set humankind free……which is why people in some countries cannot read this comment or watch this video.

  • RightPushBack Post author

    rule of law is won by the brave and theโ€‹ powerful

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