The Rules By Which We Live
Classical liberals and libertarians, especially those who admire the works of the famous legal theorists and economist F.A. Hayek, are fond of pointing out that a free society requires the rule of law.
Others, critical of this political tradition, note, however, that laws rule most societies, many of them quite tyrannical, so the rule of law has no bearing on a society’s being free. Mises quipped in 1929: “No wonder that all who have had something new to offer humanity have had nothing good to say of the state or its laws.”
What might be the source of the close relationship alleged between free societies and the rule of law is that the only laws that can be applied uniformly and universally in society are the very few that aim to keep us free. Other so called laws are really just edicts from rulers, not bona fide laws, since they apply selectively, not equally to us all.
This goes back, in part, to natural law theory which is itself related to the role of laws in the natural world. Laws regulate everything of a certain kind, not just some such things. The laws of motion apply to all things movable; the laws of photosynthesis to all things that can undergo that organic chemical process. And so on and so forth.
The difference is that with natural laws as applied to human beings, laws do not automatically apply but serve as guidelines to
Article from Mises Wire