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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rule of Law

Many moons ago, when I worked framing houses, I worked with a guy who had a unique way of dealing with questions about what to do. Whenever such a question came up, he would always reply "whatever's right". This let the questioner make the decision, but it also encouraged him to be careful about making it, because if it wasn't right, well, who knew what would happen.

Jack and I were talking at lunch yesterday about Ben Franklin, England, Haiti, Uganda, and whatever happened to the British Empire. (Thirty years ago Uganda was in the hands of Idi Amin. The place was a disaster. No one considered it a safe place to go. This year my daughter went to Uganda with a study group to learn about Africa. Uganda! I couldn't believe it. And Kenya, the one civilized country in the whole continent, is now off the list of approved places to visit.)

I am thinking that what propelled England to the top of the heap, geopolitically speaking, was the Rule of Law, and their administration of the rule of law is what eventually caused their empire to break apart. People do well when they know what the rules are. Having them written down and enforced by an unbiased agency is much preferred to Rule by Man where some person makes the rules, and changes them as he (or she) sees fit.

Unfortunately, the law is not always right. The various legislatures try to make right laws, but it is a difficult thing to do. We've had discussions with our kids about this. Yes, there are some laws that do not make any sense, but the law is still the law, and being as we are law abiding citizens, we are going to obey the law.

England accomplished a great deal, not only for themselves, but also for freedom. Eventually though, their heavy handed application of the law earned them the enmity of their colonies, and so brought about the breakup of the empire.

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