The Rule of Law Part II
The Great Seal of King John attached to the Canterbury Magna Carta. Photo Courtesy of the British Library*
“Laws are needed to resolve disputes however, they can never resolve the willful misappropriation of those who wrote them.”
In last week’s post, the principles behind why laws are made were discussed (click here to read Part I). In any civil society laws are vital in maintaining social order, settling disputes, or other perceived inequities. Although at times laws may appear to be a nuisance, their original purpose was meant to protect. For those who live in a free society, logic would dictate the fewer laws, the better. However, as our world becomes more interconnected and complex, the number of laws increases along with their complexity and intricacy.
The irony about many laws is that a useful way to undo or change those which are seemingly unfair, is to break them in an act of civil disobedience. Whether it is a “sit-in” style of protest or something more overt such as the forced signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, change requires some course of action. However, there is always a risk that unsuccessful attempts may lead to lengthy, punitive sentences or even death. Men and women alike have used many forms of rebellion to bring fairness and equity to “The Rule Of Law”.
The remaining question, which no doubt King Hammurabi himself asked, is how do laws get enacted that not only further the well-being of its citizens and “so that the strong should not harm the weak”? Each time a new country attempts to establish a constitution or any body of laws, undoubtedly it is begun with the best of intentions. Even the U.S., which claims to have one of the longest and fairest systems, allows for amendments to be made because the original authors understood that circumstances can change and there is always room for improvement.
Living in a society where everything was one hundred percent fair and equitable would be ideal but those only exist in fairy tales. Throughout countless stories of human history, many of them portray accounts of one person or group taking away the liberties of another. One so-called “civilization” enslaving those from a different one; ultimately causing some type of war or devastation all because of some inequity in the current “Rule Of Law”.
A good way to maintain any type of civility in a society is to work together for its common good. But this requires that our egos and self-interests follow that guideline as well. Many situations where laws are being changed, unfortunately are quite the opposite and work to shift the balance of power in favor of a particular group or individual. The goal of which, is NOT to “to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak……and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind.”
Fairness and equity work better when they are common goals in society. But putting aside one’s ego for a greater and more mutual outcome is not an easy task. Because we are human and have the ability to make our own decisions and choose our priorities, there will always be a need for laws to resolve these disputes.
Thank you for the great comments from the last post and I hope to read many more again. The discussion very well may lead to Part III!
*Photo is courtesy of the British Law Library; online at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/