Political Science | The Rule of Law in History, Philosophy and the American Context
Y211 | 13372 | Krumm


The “Rule of Law” is promoted widely and proclaimed loudly by many
world leaders and is widely revered through the maxim desiring
the “rule of law rather than the rule of man”.  On his website
President Obama states:
“Through judicial training and exchange programs, human-rights
training for police officers, technical assistance to governments,
and including labor rights and other standards in our trade
agreements, the U.S. works to promote and enshrine the rule of law
abroad.”
The World Bank states:
“Economic growth, political modernization, the protection of human
rights, and other worthy objectives are all believed to hinge, at
least in part, on ‘the rule of law’.”
All visitors to the Supreme Court are greeted with the large “Equal
Justice Under Law” quotation above the main entrance to the court
building.

However, the concept is nearly always vague and ill defined.  Widely
diverging nations claim to adhere to the rule of law (even being
claimed by Hitler during his reign).  Additionally, many
contemporary commentators claim that the rule of law is in decline
(or even lost) in western countries such as the United States and
the United Kingdom.  Such vagueness makes promotion of the rule of
law difficult since it is not clear what should be promoted.  Given
the importance ascribed to the rule of law (as noted in the above
quotes) such incapacity seems problematic if not dangerous.
Finally, many have questioned whether the rule of law is actually
beneficial and worth preserving or promoting which has lead to
political and legal movements against it.

This class will attempt to address these concerns and give students
a foundation through which they can analyze these issues by
examining the history of this concept, several of the most important
writings on the rule of law, and the current realization (or lack-
there-of) in American governance.  Specifically students should come
away from the class with the ability to address questions like: what
is Law?  What is the “Rule of Law”?  Does the Rule of Law promote
freedom or is law inherently in conflict with freedom?  What is the
history of this concept?  Is the United States currently a
government under the Rule of Law?  Is the Rule of Law inherently or
universally good?

This class will also serve as an introduction to the U.S. legal
system and law.  Several important Supreme Court cases will be
analyzed in conjunction with the presentation of the current
political debate concerning the Rule of Law.