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In drawing up the Massachusetts Constitution, John Adams described the Rule of Law as “to the end it may be a government of laws, not of men.”
The protests and violence in the Ukraine and Venezuela are widespread public outrage against oppressive laws decreed by the coercive powers of their governments. In both countries, the middle class is rebelling against the corruption and edicts of oligarchs and dictators. Essentially, the citizens of Ukraine and Venezuela are seeking, in John Adams words, “... a government of laws, not of men.” They are seeking to participate in a system of written rules that are universally, impartially and uniformly enforced. This is generally referred to as the Rule of Law, and for this blog is defined as:
A government with moral and legal authority promulgates written rules and universally, impartially and uniformly enforces the rules, which provides a predictable and stable legal order on which to base economic and personal decisions. The law prevails, not the proclamation or arbitrary decision of a ruler, government bureaucrat, the enforcer (e.g., policeman) or judge.
Similar to the middle class rebellions in Ukraine and Venezuela, America's Revolutionary War was fought to be free from the edicts of King George III and the Parliament of England. Remember the Sugar, Stamp, and Quartering acts. At the Constitutional Convention, James Madison created three branches of government to prevent government by proclamation. These constitutional checks and balances were to protect the freedom of every American from the proclamations or arbitrary decisions of government, especially the ruler.
Today, the citizens of Ukraine and Venezuela are seeking freedom. Michael Barone of the Washington Examiner correctly reasons that the citizens of Ukraine and Venezuela - two very diverse countries - are risking their lives because there is the “absence of the rule of law.” More importantly Barone cautions Americans:
“The rule of law is hard to establish and easy to dismantle. Something to keep in mind as our president keeps unilaterally rewriting Obamacare and our IRS targets his political opponents.”
Ukraine and Venezuela—Russia as well - are societies divided between a political elite built around patronage and corruption and an increasing, globally-aligned middle class who yearn for economic reform and a voice in decisions regarding their destiny. This is the faultline of our times.
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