I’m reading The Rule of Law, by Lord Bingham. It seemed timely. I’m not far into it but he goes through the history of the concept, and it is very interesting. These are a few things I’ve taken from it so far:
– the concept dates back to the Magna Carta, 1215AD. The core of it was that the king was subject to the law, not above it.
– in the 1660’s AD Sir Mathew Hale, a judge, wrote some resolutions about how judges should conduct themselves, for his own reminder. These got passed down. One was that “in the execution of justice, I carefully lay aside my own passions, and not give way to them however provoked.”
– torture was abolished in the UK, in 1640.
We can see all three basic principles being unravelled in the USA over the last 17 years, and to a degree around the world. Phillipe Sands predicted this in his 2006 book, Lawless World. He argued, as I recall, that the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in violation of international law (because it was not sanctioned by the UN Security Council, and was not in self-defence), set a dangerous precedent which would be followed.
To add to the seeming decay of the Rule of Law, in the last two years a number of far-right leaders have been voted in, both nationally and provincially (in Canada). Trump, Ford, and now Bolsonaro, to name a few. How does this relate to climate change?
This interesting piece from the Walrus makes a convincing argument that America (the United States) is headed for some kind of civil war or breakdown (goo.gl/4aC7cs), and this article by Umair Haque, Why Catastrophic Climate Change is Probably Inevitable Now (goo.gl/hLuem5) ties many threads together to reflect the converging dangers of rising fascism and the collapsing climate.
The “rule of law” is not a tool for governments to justify oppression of inconvenient protestors, its chief nature is to hold people in power to some degree of temperance, fairness and propriety.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions referred to it a few months ago, in his first public response to Trump’s insults, and in a way that Trump should have found ominous, had he understood.
The rule of law is our friend, in my view. Where it has failed, ie – in regards to First Nations peoples (in Canada) it should be improved, not abandoned.
In a climate-change world the rule of law may one day be all that stands between us and complete breakdown. I may be reading too much into it, but I have to wonder if Bingham wrote the book, at 77 years old, because he could see the direction things were going.
In the long run, if things get as bad as some people are saying they could, the Rule of Law may be the best climate mitigation strategy that we have for human survival. There will be more posts on this fertile topic.