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Elements of Democracy – Rule of Law

08/06/2011

What is the rule of law?

Although many people do not realize it, they live by the rule of law every day in their countries.  The rule of law is the idea that no person is above the law, that no one can be punished by the state except for a breach of the law, and that no one can be convicted of breaking the law except in the manner set forth by the law itself.

This is what the phrase “a government of laws, not men,” made famous by John Adams, the second president of the United States, means. In other words, rule of law means that no leader is above the law – unlike Roman Law, Nazi Law, and certain other legal systems.

The phrase has been used since the 17th century, but the concept is older. For example, the Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “Law should govern”.

To help you understand more about rule of law, the Kirovograd Oblast Research Library Named After Chizhevsky has posted a new study called “Elements of Democracy – Rule”. This is the second in our Democracy series (the first was “What is Democracy?” and can be found on the Country Studies Presentations Page on the library’s web site.

The rule of law is the supreme check on political power used against people’s rights. Without the regulation of state power by a system of laws, procedures, and courts, democracy could not survive.

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