Founding Principles of America 22: Rule of Law protects Constitutional Freedoms
Founding Principles of America: 28 Great Ideas that changed the world
The practical application of this book review of Skousen educated wisdom is to leverage “We, The People’s” knowledge to expose ignorance, anarchy and tyranny, and hold the government accountable.
From The 5,000 Year Leap—A Miracle that Changed the World
By W. Cleon Skousen
A Free People Should be Governed by Law and Not by the Whims of Men
US Constitution Series 22
We have become a nation governed by executive orders (dictatorial decrees). The following principle teaches us how America was founded and should remain. ~C.D.
To be governed by the whims of men is to be subject to the ever-changing capriciousness of those in power. This is ruler’s law at its worst. In such a society nothing is dependable. No rights are secure. Things established in the present are in a constant state of flux. Nothing becomes fixed and predictable for the future.
Law as a “Rule of Action”
The American Founders and their Anglo-Saxon forebears had an entirely different point of view. They defined law as a “rule of action” which was intended to be as binding on the ruler as it was upon the people. It was designed to give society a stable frame of reference so the people could feel secure in making plans for the future. (Skousen, 243)
Responsibility of Society to Establish Fixed Laws
John Locke pointed out that unless a society can provide a person with a code of fixed and enforceable laws, he might as well have stayed in the jungle.
Freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to everyone of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it.
Under established law every person’s rights and duties are defined. Anglo-Saxon common law provided a framework of relative security and a sense of well-being for people and things, both present and future. This is the security which is designed to provide a high degree of freedom from fear and therefore freedom to act. Such a society gives its people a sense of liberty—liberty under law. The American Founders believed that without the protection of law there can be no liberty.
No man will contend that a nation can be free that is not governed by fixed laws. All other government than that of permanent known laws is the government of mere will and pleasure.
Even the best of men in authority are liable to be corrupted by passion. We may conclude then that the law is reason without passion, and it is therefore preferable to any individual.
Plato Was Wrong
We deduct from this that Aristotle had concluded that the teachings of his mentor, Plato, were wrong. Plato believed that in the ideal society the people should be governed “by the few” who would rule according to “scientific principles” and make on-the-spot decisions to force the people to do what is good for them. (Skousen, 245)
The best thing of all is not that the law should rule, but that a man should rule, supposing him to have wisdom and royal power. (Spoken like a typical ideological tyrant. ~C.D.)
Law is a Positive Good in Preserving Liberty
As we have seen, the American Founding Fathers would have agreed with Aristotle rather than Plato. Part of this was due to the fact that the Founders looked upon law differently than Plato. Instead of treating law as merely a code of negative restraints and prohibitions, they considered law to be a system of positive rules by which they could be assured of enjoying their rights and the protection of themselves, their families, and their property. In other words, law was a positive good rather than a necessary evil. (Skousen, 246)
Again, from John Locke:
The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom. For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others, which cannot be where there is no law.
Law Should be Understandable and Stable
It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood. ~James Madison
The Founders were sensitive to the fact that the people have confidence in the law only to the extent that they can understand it and feel that it is a rule of relative permanence which will not be continually changed. The complex codes of laws and regulations in our own day could be greatly improved through a similar housecleaning. (Skousen, 246-247)
NEXT: Founding Principles of America 23: A Free Society Cannot Survive as a Republic without a broad program of General Education