Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Is Democracy Needed for Rule of Law?

I had long believed that rule of law alone is sufficient for the maintenance and preservation of personal liberty. I had a long-held suspicion that democracy is not a prerequisite for rule of law to exist. But I was not 100% sure about my belief though, especially in the face of many arguments which claim that rule of law is a by-product of democracy.

That's until I read this yesterday:

"To regard the rule of law, surely one of the most crucial positive externalities an economy can possibly enjoy, as a by-product of democracy is simply erroneous and is belied by history.

The rule of law has prevailed in England from the end of the 17th century onwards. It dominated some aspects of civil and even public life in France under the absolute monarchy of the Bourbons. It established itself in Prussia in the 18th and in Austria-Hungary in the 19th century. None of these countries waited for democracy before submitting to the rule of law.

Democracy may produce a favourable climate for the rule of law to take root. However, it does not always do so, as witness some Latin American countries that adopted universal suffrage and majority voting as their means of choosing governments in the second half of the 20th century. Saying that they are not really democracies because they do not have the rule of law would be to turn the relation of the two into an empty tautology."

Read the whole thing here.

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