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012 What is the “rule of law”?

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 12. What is the “rule of law”?
Answer:
• Everyone must follow the law
• Leaders must obey the law
• Government must obey the law
• No one is above the law

Explanation:
More than 800 years ago, in a city in England, a group of men got together to create a new kind of government. At the time, England was ruled by a king, but the king did not follow the same laws as the rest of the people. So these men wrote a document called the Magna Carta, which said that the king must obey (or follow) the same laws as everyone else. This idea we now call "the rule of law."

Many years later, in 1787, the people who drafted (or planned in writing) the Constitution used the Magna Carta as part of its system of government for the new United States. These people believed in a government for the people and by the people (or a government created and run by American citizens), so the rule of law was put in place (or established) to protect against totalitarianism (or a type of government in which almost everything is controlled by the government) or against mob rule (control of the government by a large group of people, usually using violence to get power). Early Americans felt that the rule of law was central (or very important) to the concept of democracy. They felt that equality, which is the idea that everyone should be treated in the same way under the law, was the only way to be fair to all Americans in all aspects (or parts) of life.

In the United States today, police officers, the president, normal citizens, and everyone else must follow the same laws. No matter how much money or power a person has, he or she cannot be exempt from following (or not have to follow) the law. The “rule of law” also means that all Americans have the right to the same protections under the law. This idea of equal protection under the law is known as due process.

Due process is one of the rights guaranteed to all Americans in the Bill of Rights. Rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion are better known, but due process is one of the most commonly used rights in the United States. In fact, these are some common phrases that Americans use to express the ideas of due process and the rule of law: “Everyone is equal in the eyes of the law” and “Justice (or the legal system) is blind.”

Glossary

Magna Carta – a document written in England in 1215 that made the King follow laws of the country
* We can see a copy of the Magna Carta at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

to draft – to plan something in writing; to begin to write a document
* How long did it take to draft the company report?

to put in place – to establish something; to implement something
* When Jacquie began working as the manager, she put in place many new rules.

totalitarianism – a type of government in which almost everything is controlled by the government
* Our history teacher said that Nazi Germany is an example of totalitarianism.

mob rule – control of the government by a large group of people, usually using violence to get power
* Some people worry that if a government is very weak, it encourages mob rule.

central – very important; main part; critical
* Getting people to vote is central for a democracy to work well.

equality – the idea that everyone should be treated in the same way under the law
* In the past, women were not allowed to vote, so they had to fight for equality with men.

aspect – a part of something; one way of looking at something
* For me, the worst aspect of being a manager is having to tell people that they aren't doing their work well enough.

to be exempt from (something) – to not have to follow something; to not have something be applicable to oneself
* In the United States, most churches are exempt from paying property taxes.

due process – the idea of equal protection under the law, and that the government must respect all of a person's rights and follow rules
* All Americans can expect the government to follow due process if they have to go to court.