LAW DAY REFLECTIONS: Trent Tanner

To me, the Rule of Law is a crucial component of our ability and right as citizens and human beings to exercise our agency. When laws – especially good ones – are fairly and objectively enforced, the governed can confidently make decisions based on accurate and informed predictions about the results and consequences of those decisions. For example, in a society with a strong Rule of Law, I can enter into a contract with Acme Co. to do any number of things – e.g., build my house, perform the accounting for my small business, provide engineering consulting services for a bridge I’m supposed to build, or give daycare to my small children – confident that Acme Co. will perform or be required to make me whole.

By contrast, when the Rule of Law is weak – when the consequences of citizens’ actions depend on the whims and vagaries of government officials and bureaucrats, instead of on the fair and objective application of just laws – freedom and agency suffer, and with them human prosperity. Will the clerk at the government permitting office agree to approve my company’s building plans, without having to bribe him to do so? Or will he instead award the permit to his cousin? What about my lawsuit against Acme Co. for failing to correctly install the swimming pool I saved for years to afford – will the judge enforce the terms of my contract with Acme Co.? Or will he dismiss my case because he plays golf with the Acme’s CEO?

This is why Lady Justice, in courthouse statutes around the world, is so often depicted wearing a blindfold: if her scales tip against me or her sword falls on my head, it is probably because I violated the law rather than because she didn’t like the color of my skin, the religious garb I wear, the political party I belong to, or how little money I could offer to pay her.

Trent Tanner

Co-President, Nebraska Chapter, Federalist Society

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