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Principle Spotlight: Hayek and the Rule of Law

Essential to liberty is the ability for humankind to order and plan its future within a framework of reliable laws.  The government that is unpredictable, changes laws at a whim, favors one group over another--creates an environment in which man is not free to make his own path.  In contrast, an understood framework allows humans to create and innovate and take on new ideas without fear of the rules changing and throwing plans off course.  Thus, the rule of law is the idea that man is governed by laws that are understood by the community and enforced equally by the government—a playing field where, as long as one stays within the boundaries, one has the ability to thrive.

Friedrich A. Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty described the Rule of Law as a meta-legal principle, binding the lawgiver and the law through moral tradition.(1)  To Hayek then, the rule of law means:

government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced before hand—rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances and to plan one’s individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge. (2)

1. F.A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, (Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 1960), 206.

2. F. A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, (Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 1994), 80.