Why No One Is Above the Rule of Law in America

The Declaration of Independence.

John Trumbull's painting ‘Declaration of Independence’ depicting the five-man drafting committee presenting their work to the Congress. (Image: via Public Domain)

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its leadership have primarily observed de jure or separation between itself and the state, including the legal system — even while de facto controlling the state apparatus and often disregarding and devaluing the rule of law — for much of the 70 years it has ruled Mainland China.

In contrast, the U.S. Constitution is a fundamental law that codifies its leaders’ and its peoples’ core values. To assure this, courts of law are responsible for interpreting the U.S. Constitution’s meaning and the importance of any laws passed by Congress or executive order issued by a U.S. President.

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Why the rule of law matters

The key to the rule of law in the U.S. is a commitment to fairly apply it to everyone despite their status in society. This assures using the law for government, not just for individuals and entities representing the government, but by making the law clear and legal proceedings transparent, and balancing individual rights against the safety of others.

As such, the U.S. Constitution forms the basis of legal society. It is an agreement that ruling authorities abide by to protect all its citizens despite color, creed, religion, or political status. Citizens, in turn, and those in the government are willing to live by its expectations. That means no citizen or government authority, either past or present, is above the rule of law.

The key to the rule of law in the U.S. is a commitment to fairly applying the law to everyone despite their political status.
The key to the rule of law in the U.S. is a commitment to fairly applying the law to everyone despite their political status. (Image: Ian Andreiev via Dreamstime)

Necessary to restrain opportunism

America’s forefathers identified the presence of the rule of law for all as a necessary condition for the long-term development of American society as it enables parties to coordinate their affairs by allowing them to predict how others will act.

In the late 1780s, Americans invented the modern world’s first democracy amidst a chorus of international scorn. America had defeated the British with the help of the French. In the aftermath, adherence to the rule of law was necessary to restrain politicians and special interests that would seize the opportunity to push their narrow interests, often with no relationship to the common good of its citizens.

“The body of people … do not possess the discernment and stability necessary for systematic government. To deny that they are frequently led into the grossest errors by misinformation and passion, would be a flattery which their own good sense must despise.”

Alexander Hamilton

The role of party politics

The CCP epitomizes the role of unleased politicization in decision-making that threatens economic and social development and the rule-of-law intended to enhance party legitimacy. Reflected in its continued resort to extra-legal means in dealing with perceived enemies, the CCP ultimately undermines its party-state legitimacy at home and abroad.

In the U.S., once constitutional constraints and the rule of law are overridden, the party in power has little incentive to support a return to the rule of law. In other words, once discretion is unleashed, history tells us that the dissipation of the situation does not promote a return to the rule of law.

Consequently, a “ratchet effect” brings about the abandonment of the rule of law for the self-interest of the ruling party, be it Communist, Democrat, or Republican.

In explaining the need for an independent judiciary, Hamilton noted that the federal courts 'were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and their legislature.'
In explaining the need for an independent judiciary, Hamilton noted that the federal courts ‘were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and their legislature.’ (Image: Wisconsinart via Dreamstime)

The role of the judiciary

American Forefathers Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay published a series of essays promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution, known as the Federalist Papers

In explaining the need for an independent judiciary, Hamilton noted that the federal courts “were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and their legislature” to ensure that the people’s representatives acted only within the authority given to Congress under the U.S. Constitution.

Equality before the law is such an essential part of the American judicial system that when a majority, whether acting intentionally or unintentionally, infringes upon the rights of a minority, the judiciary may see fit to hear both sides of the controversy.

In summary

The rule of law is the foundation of all other rights in the United States. Without it, nothing else functions. So, for example, there would be:

  • No contract system
  • No intellectual property
  • No protection against human rights abuses

The rule of law is not necessary for a society to exist; however, for a society to prosper, the rule of law must flourish and ensure individuals, lives, and social rights are maintained for all its citizens.

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