Friday, March 11, 2011

The Rule of Law

Do we need “The Rule of Law?"

It was important to our Founders, as they were quite familiar with laws based on the divine right of kings. Furthermore, they knew that laws had to be written down and have the consent of the governed, or they would not work.

Here in modern-day America, the rule of law is closely linked to the idea that no person is above the law. Rather than be governed by the dictates of individual leaders and groups, we choose to be governed by our Constitution and the laws that flow from it. We honor the notion that no matter what a person’s status within our country, he or she is bound by its laws.

Or do we? There is an interesting twist on this concept that is linked to the referendum on the Democratic Party. When the power and authority of the Democratic Party is at stake, is the rule of law subordinated?

The recent public-sector union conflict in Wisconsin focuses our attention:

--When a physician is working to increase the power and authority of the Democratic Party, should his or her ethical standards be enforced?

--When a legislator is working to increase the power and authority of the Democratic Party, must he or she conform to the rules of conduct associated with the duties of office?

--When a police officer is working to increase the power and authority of the Democratic Party, must he or she carry out the duties associated with public safety?

We are also reminded of the New Black Panther incident in Philadelphia. Our President, a Constitutional scholar who took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, believes that the Department of Justice must allow this incident to pass. The rule of law, where it pertains to electioneering, must not be enforced when people are working to increase the power and authority of the Democratic Party.

And lest we forget, there is the issue of the administration of our national healthcare, where legislation is passed but individual waivers are given in order to increase the power and authority of the Democratic Party.

In the Democratic Party’s glorious fight, the rule of law is simply discarded. What would Plato think?

UPDATE 3/12/2011:
Linked by Left Coast Rebel!  Thank you, Tim.

UPDATE 3/18/2011:
John Nolte at Andrew Breitbart's Big Government has a compilation of the public-sector union tactics employed over the last few weeks in Wisconsin.

UPDATE 3/29/2011:
Katherine Kersten, writing at the Minneapolis-St.Paul Star Tribune, has some additional perspective on the tactics used in Wisconsin.

UPDATE 4/13/2011:
Richard A. Epstein, writing in National Affairs, concludes his article on "Government by Waiver" with this:
"...the problem of government by waiver — like the larger danger of excessive discretion — can be limited only by a greater awareness of these perils on the part of judges and administrators. The best we can hope for, then, is enlightened leaders.
And that is precisely the problem. The fate of our rights and liberties is left to the wisdom and discretion of individuals; we are therefore governed by men, not by laws. It was this exact circumstance that our system of government was designed to avoid: As James Madison noted in Federalist No. 10, 'enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.' In this sense, the problem of government by waiver shows us just how far we have strayed from the intentions of those who created our system of government — and how we risk betraying their hope that we might preserve it."
UPDATE 5/23/2011:
The rule of law stands in contrast to the power of droit de seigneur seen in the accusations made against Dominique Strauss-Kahn this past week.  A chambermaid at a New York City hotel is getting firsthand experience with the importance of this constitutional principle.

UPDATE 11/17/2011:
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a story on the sanctions taken by the Wisonsin Medical Examining Board against the various doctors noted above:
Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) said that the action showed the board wasn't serious about enforcing standards.
"This confirms my suspicion that the Medical Examining Board is a joke. Their goal is not to look after the public at large but to protect their buddies from an undue interruption in their careers," Grothman said.

UPDATE 3/22/2013:
Rob Douglas, writing for Steamboat Today notes how frequently we see America's leaders ignore the rule of law.  His final observation:
Our elected representatives also need to grasp the reality that a nation that loses respect for the law quickly can slide into anarchy.

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