More than 800 years ago, the Magna Carta was signed, establishing that a premise that holds every individual accountable under the law, even kings and governments, guaranteeing the rights of individuals, access to justice and the right to a fair trial among others. In essence, the Magna Carta established the principle of the rule of law.
The rule of law focuses on the ways that power is exercised. It underscores the need to mitigate excessive power and to moderate the flagrant exercise of power, so that abundant power cannot be wielded by the powerful to the detriment of others. Adherence to the rule of law limits or eliminates “arbitrary power” which threatens to undermine the freedom, rights and security of all.
True freedom requires the rule of law and justice, and a judicial system in which the rights of some are not secured by the denial of rights to others. Jonathan Sacks
The rule of law requires that laws be exercised on the basis of evidence, tested, refined by discourse and argument, and justified for the understanding of the public. Citizens must be able to examine, question, and rely upon the faithful, ethical application and execution of these laws. The rule of law does not merely constrain power; it encourages reflection and thoughtfulness.
The rule of law ensures that all people are treated equally and fairly under the law. It is the foundation for democracy, for ethical legislation, social development, economic development and governments that truly reflect the will of the people. American theologian, ethicist, and political commentator, Reinhold Niebuhr once said “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”
In essence, the rule of law is necessary for the development and preservation of democracies that seek the protection of all citizens.