Part one in a four part series on the meaning of law.
A lot has been made about the Rule of Law. It is repeated often that the United States is a nation of laws, ordered and founded on the Rule of Law. What exactly the Rule of Law is remains a matter of constant debate in our present time. This is actually a very recent phenomena. For almost five thousand years the concepts of the Rule of Law were clearly and distinctly understood.
The Roman Empire and the Roman Republic were founded and grounded in the Rule of Law. The Greek societies were, before Alexander, founded in the same basic concepts of law and order. The Kingdom of Israel was certainly founded in the Rule of Law. Every successful societal order has been based upon the concept of this structure. Every single society that abandons the basic understanding of what the Rule of Law really is has failed, fallen due to the chaos that inevitably comes from a false interpretation.
When politicians talk about special interests over ideology, they are really engaging in a process of divide and conquer. When two different groups are pitted against each other and the politician stands above them acting as arbiter, both groups give up their power to the politician because the politician is perceived to have the ability to solve their differences. The irony is that it is usually the politician who caused the problem in the first place. It is also ironic that it is not in the best interests of the politician to actually solve the problem rather than simply mollify the current circumstance. This leaves the option available for a resurgence of hostilities at a later date and a further acquisition of power.
The outcome of such a division, however, is the inevitable destruction of law. When one group expresses a grievance so loudly that a law must be enacted to compensate that group, the law that is made will – of a necessity – contradict the interests of another group. This forces the second group to address a grievance, which in turn may or may not cause another law to be enacted, and so on. Add to this the complexities of the judicial process, where one has to tap dance through the mine fields of legislature and you have an awful mess.
Eventually you end up with the circumstance we now face in this nation; greed overcoming the law, and the law becoming ineffectual.
When you have individuals assuming that they can mold or manipulate law to serve their own interests, no matter how altruistic their aims, they essentially negate the purpose of law. But, if you don’t understand the basic purpose of law, then none of this makes any sense. If you don’t understand the foundational principles of the meaning of law, then to you law is a means of granting and who doesn’t want a grant?
Those who fall into the secular-humanist camp will regularly claim the foundations of democracy as from the Greek Hellenistic philosophical tradition. They are quick to assert Plato and Aristotle as the models of the basic underpinnings of modern society. They then fail to understand their own message. Aristotle categorically denied democracy as a valid form of government. In his work “The Republic” he clearly showed the failure of democracy; the indigent.
It is the indigent that the democratic minded politician seeks. They are the easiest to persuade. They are the easiest to dupe. This is not because they are necessarily unintelligent, or even uneducated. It is because they are human.
Every human has a desire for things. Things include food, housing, healthcare and basic transportation. Things may or may not include luxuries to be enjoyed, but certainly everyone can recognize what luxurious things represent. This sort of personal success comes from a need for personal affirmation, personal pleasure, or personal greed. Humans are, by their nature, needy. The democratic minded politician understands this and uses it to greatest effect.
A rich man is not easily bought. A poor man needs only his next month’s wages. It is cheaper to buy a thousand poor men than one rich man. In a society where each individual has a voice in the affairs of government, a thousand men will do far more than one rich man. However, in order to keep the rich man from hiring the poor away from the politician, the politician creates a class rift. He vilifies the rich and praises the poor. Though he, himself may be rich, the poor he “serves” are never shown this. He will cleverly position himself as one of the poor; identify himself with them in every way possible so that they perceive him to be fully sympathetic.
The purpose of the democratic minded politician is not to social justice, but rather to personal gain, through antagonizing one group against the other. Through this he can gain popular support to change the laws that don’t suit his aims and enact laws that do. This, in turn, fundamentally changes the meaning of the Rule of Law.
Aristotle understood this. It was for this reason that he proposed the “Philosopher King” and then worked diligently to create that archetype in the person of Alexander the Great. The problem with this thesis is that once Alexander died, there was no philosopher to train up another king. The Macedonian Empire fell into ruins very quickly.
The Roman Empire, however, lasted nearly five hundred years and before that the Roman Republic lasted nearly another five hundred years. The reason for their success was clearly recognized, as was the reason for their downfall: The Twelve Tablets.
The Twelve Tablets were the law, written in stone. They were, in a sense, divine in origin, and sacred in their establishment. The laws on the Twelve Tablets were considered inviolate through the greatest periods of Roman history. It was when these tablets began to be abrogated by despotic emperors that Rome began to fall as a power.
But, there was a previous precedent of law being written in stone, of divine origin and sacred in their establishment. This law also kept a people for almost a thousand years. As well, it was when the law began to be abrogated by authority that these people, as a nation, began to fall. These laws were the Ten Commandments, and the people were the Israelites. It is from this earlier tradition that we learn the history of the meaning of the Rule of Law, and from here we can trace the foundation of the Rule of Law.