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Rule of Law

  • Rule of law is a concept for which different sources have different definitions. The general gist common among most of them, however, is that government officials are subordinate to and subject to the law.

    The idea of rule of law in common law legal systems traces back to the sealing of the Magna Carta in 1215. Magna Carta was the first written document restricting the English monarch to enforcing known laws and customs rather than arbitrarily making up new rules and whimsically confiscating wealth and otherwise punishing people whenever convenient.

    King John, the English monarch at the time, is widely known for being one of the worst kings in all of English history. John drained the treasury in pursuit of failed wars. He made a habit of taxing people whenever he was in need of resources to fund his ill-conceived exploits.

    It is said that he was so arbitrary in his governance that he was fond of saying that "the law is in my mouth". In other words, the law was whatever he decided it was at any given time.

    His behavior was so abusive that it led to a standoff with English barons and their private armies at Runnymede. Knowing that he would lose if fighting ensued, the king found himself agreeing to the conditions written down in the Magna Carta that made him subordinate to the law.



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