Resurrecting the Rule of Law

Doug Fiedor
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Spring 2001
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Issue Number: 

We've all heard of it. But few Americans use the term "Rule of Law" anymore for a very good reason. Except for lawyers, not many of us have any idea what that term really means. Worse yet, most of us don't really care what it means, either. The term is just not very useful in everyday conversation.

But we should care. There was a time, before about 1940, when nearly every American citizen knew exactly what the term Rule of Law indicated. And, they often demanded strict enforcement. You should be very familiar with the term, too. It pertains to something very precious to you: Your freedom. And today, we're desperately in need of a resurgence in good, old-fashioned freedom from government restraints.

One old political dictionary defines Rule of Law as "an Anglo-American concept that emphasizes the supremacy of the law and restricts the discretionary power of public officials. The Rule of Law particularly stresses the protection of individual rights from the arbitrary interference of officials." In other words, when applied correctly, it protects your personal freedom. Not the group rights the leftist-liberal socialists try to push on us, but our own individual, personal rights and liberties.

In The Road to Serfdom, Professor of Economics and Nobel laureate F. A. Hayek says of the Rule of Law: "...this means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand --- rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances and to plan one's individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge."

Now do you see why we need to know more about the Rule of Law? Because it restricts the discretionary power of public officials.

Well, originally, it was supposed to, anyway.

And yes, public officials really are supposed to be controlled by something other than the vote. It is the "what" that is to limit the actions of public officials that has become foggy in the minds of many of today's American citizens.

In the United States, the limiting factor is our Constitution.

Years ago, we used to say that we have "a government of law and not of men." Back then, we expected our elected officials and bureaucrats to stay within the boundaries set down by our Constitution. That is, Congress was not expected to pass unconstitutional laws, the president and the courts were expected to strictly enforce the Bill of Rights, and your state and local officials would do only those things outlined by your state constitution and/or city charter.

That is what our grandparents expected.

All rights and liberties of the individual citizen were supposed to be protected by government.

But, that was years ago. This is now. And things have changed.

Still, the foundation on which the government of the United States is constructed is the Constitution.

To violate the words --- the intent --- of the Constitution, therefore, is to profess a form of government outlawed by the document itself.

In 1928, Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote (277, US 428, 485): "Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence."

Justice Brandeis also wrote that, "If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."

From that, we may safely assume that Brandeis also meant Constitutionally legal.

To propose a law, rule, regulation, executive order, or judicial opinion not in exact agreement with the authority given government by our Constitution would also be a direct violation of the oath of office taken by all members of government. It is, therefore, itself a violation of the law.

Furthermore, in Norton v. Shelby, (118 US 423), the Supreme Court said that: "An unconstitutional act is not law. It confers no rights, it imposes no duty, it affords no protection, it creates no office."

Lately, popular press accounts relate that even prostitutes on the street have a higher believability level than elected officials and their bureaucratic minions in Washington. This is because hookers do not normally lie about what they have to offer. Elected officials and bureaucrats, on the other hand, live a lie in that they violate the Constitution --- the Rule of Law --- in nearly everything they do today.

"Patriotism means to stand by the country," said Theodore Roosevelt. "It does not mean to stand by the president or any public official, save exactly to the degree he himself stands by the country."

Amen, Teddy. Amen.

Mr. Fiedor publishes a newsletter Heads Up --- A Weekly View from the Foothills of Appalachia that is free to all at His e-mail is

Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 2001;6(1):29. Copyright ©2001 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).

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