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Jon Hellevig
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Rule-by-Justice

Once the true nature of law is understood, then one will be ready to replace the archaic and backward looking notion of rule-of-law by the forward looking notion of rule-by-justice. It is not enough in a righteous state (or rule-of-law state as it is sometimes called) that there is rule-of-law, but what is needed is a rule of just laws and justice. I call it rule-by-justice. This because no injustice can be motivated by the fact that a ruler or a ruling body has posited something as law, which in fact is the claim of rule-of-law.

It becomes clear from Finnis discussion that rule-of-law is really a description of an orderly system, where all the elements interact and therefore actually is the description of an established legal culture. It is also evident that the rule-of-law is not a ‘thing’ that can be implemented by an act of wishing. This is something that the superficial critics of Russian reforms should keep in mind: they look at Russia through their distorted perspectives (with varying degrees of neutrality), and can grasp only the thinnest surface manifestations of social life, and these only projected against the background and conditions of their own upbringing. - Finnis gives a fairly adequate characterization of what ‘rule-of-law’ could mean. He calls it ‘a state of affairs in which a legal system is in good shape’. – Being in ‘good shape’ i.e. healthy, is not something one declares to be, but something one can endeavor towards.

In a state like Russia, which started without any real fundaments for law – actually from a state of deep-rooted institutionalized lawlessness and injustice - it has only been with a lot of courage and vision of the leaders that change has come about. - The balancing act of the Russian leaders is to make rule-by-justice in a state where there does not even exist the conditions for rule-of-law. Finnis describes adequately the task of a leader of a democratic revolution: “Sometimes, moreover, the values to be secured by the genuine Rule of Law and authentic constitutional government are best served by temporarily but perhaps drastically departing, from the law and the constitution. Since such occasions call for that awesome responsibility and most measured practical reasonableness which we call statesmanship, one should say nothing that might appear to be a key to identifying the occasion or a guide to acting in it…A written constitution is not a suicide pact…”

Rule-by-justice is bringing about the balance that society at any given stage of development is ready for. The political leadership can work only with such building blocks that are of the caliber that the society is ready for. At the same time a good political leadership takes measures to promote the refinement of the building blocks, the arguments, the expressions and their interactions. And this way there will emerge hope for a system that could be called rule-by-justice.




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© 2017 Jon Hellevig