“The rule of law is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials. It primarily refers to the influence and authority of law within society, particularly as a constraint upon behavior, including behavior of government officials.”
We hear this reassurance frequently uttered by politicians, judges, and lawyers. Most recently, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, said of his mother: “She’s instilled in me a commitment to public service and a respect for the rule of law that I’ve tried to follow throughout my career.”
Yet, in my opinion, it doesn’t square with reality when the following things occur on a regular basis:
• Everyone knows theft is illegal. However, instead of enforcing the law to protect property, the government confiscates property through taxation. It’s been argued that the income tax law is a violation of various constitutional protections. But what chance does an ordinary citizen have going up against the state that makes and adjudicates the laws? Even if you agree with Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., that taxes are the price we pay for civilization, read on:
• The illegal tax laws, now widely accepted, are frequently and arbitrarily changed with little or no notice by the taxing authorities, presidents, and legislators. President Trump’s tax reform is just one in long line of arbitrary tax law changes by one individual, in this case, elected by less than a majority of the people. Oh yes, I almost forgot, tariffs! Is that not an “arbitrary decision of individual government officials”; i.e. a violation of rule of law as defined above?
• Property use, i.e., zoning laws, are often changed, thereby typically devaluing property, without compensation. I have personally experienced this twice.
• Court decisions are often appealed and reversed, one or more times. Supreme Court decisions are often narrowly split. What does that say about rule of law? Other than that it’s actually a matter of opinion, usually along party lines, not based on a firm principle of law, i.e. protecting life, freedom, property.
• Re Kavanaugh, it’s said Roe v. Wade may be threatened. Whether you believe it was a just law, or not, it may now be revisited.
Many more examples could be given, but these a few that come to mind.
These are just a few reasons why, when I hear the term “rule of law” uttered by any of the above, I believe we’re all about to be duped and swindled again.