The rule of law has a long tradition in the United States. According to Ten (2017), even before the US became a nation, there were talks among the colonists regarding the laws becoming the primary governing aspect, not individuals. After the US gained independence, the Constitution became the foundation of law. It created a framework for ensuring a precise balance among the three government branches and, most importantly, protects individual rights. The Constitution identifies various individual rights, among them rights to due process, and limits the government’s actions. The founding fathers emphasized respect for the rule of law because they understood that it was instrumental in maintaining God’s established law. Dees (2014) elucidates that as a subcomponent of spiritual infrastructure, respect for the rule of law ensures God’s natural law continues to proliferate in America. Thus, if power is exercised within the constraints of law as provided for by the Constitution, it will ensure God-granted authority; hence, promoting unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
Historical Background of The Respect of The Rule of Law
The founding father of the United States founded the nation on a robust spiritual infrastructure. According to Dees (2014), their spiritual connectedness helped them understand that the government is a ‘necessary evil’ – meaning that although it is essential to ensuring order and prosperity if ungoverned can harm Americans. Therefore, they deemed it necessary to incorporate the rule of law as a fundamental safeguard to ensure the US’s sustainability as a democracy (Ten, 2017). The rule of law refers to a principle under which every individual, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are – (1) publicly promulgated, (2) equally enforced, (3) independently adjudicated, and lastly, (4) consistent with fundamental human rights (Revival, 2018). Thus, the phrase ‘the rule of law’ refers to the provision that laws must be followed, and they equally apply to everyone.
The founding fathers meant for the rule of law to govern the US, as opposed to arbitrary decisions made by powerful government officials. In 1780, John Adams wrote in the Massachusetts Constitution, “to the end it may be a government of laws, not men.” This implies that every American has the right to treated the same under the rule of law, and not society view right and wrong. Ten (2017) elucidates that the rule of law in its original and most useful sense refers to imperium legume, which translates to ‘the empire of laws, not of men.” It entails removing the arbitrary will of public officials from the administration of justice in the society, as much as possible (Waldron, 2016). As such, it implies constitutionalism as it facilitates equal and impartial justice for all.
Besides John Adams, the work of Lon Fuller regarding the rule of law was and is still influential. Fuller, faced with the question of whether it was better than the best man rule or the best laws to rule a nation, approached it pragmatically. He argued that the government, per the procedures and forms of law, has a distinctive value that can help close the gap between positive law and morality. Fuller acknowledged that the link between legality and justice is tentative. Nonetheless, the absence of respect for the rule of law can undoubtedly deprive a system of its power as law (Zanghellini, 2016). It is such considerations and arguments that led to the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution. The Amendment states that no person shall be deprived of liberty, property, or life, without due process of law (Revival, 2018). The historical background of the ‘rule of law’ explains why equality before the law has been an integral part of the American government system.
It is also worth noting that the traditional background of the rule of law points out to its foundation in spiritual infrastructure. According to Dees (2014), there exist three institutions ordained by God, including family, Church, and the nation. According to Dees, God ordained the State as an institution with the intent to safeguard the unalienable rights bestowed upon every human being. Dees explains that the development of the law and political theory that led to establishing the US Constitution and its Bill of Rights is shaped by robust spiritual infrastructure. A perfect example of the Declaration of Independence, which states that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Another example is the Pledge to Allegiance to the United States of America. The pledge emphasizes that the US stands as one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all (Revival, 2018). Thus, the rule of law is undergirded by biblical guidelines.
Respect for the Rule of Law in Contemporary US
Over the years, respect for the rule of law has been deteriorating. Revival (2018) explains that no state can maintain the rule of law if citizens do not respect the established laws. America, as a nation, has significantly lost respect for the law. Americans have become overly capitalist to the point that they focus on ‘making by all means’ even if it means disregarding the law. Alistar (2019) elucidates that the 21st century has seen the US deal with escalated moral erosion evident in the increased criminal activities rate. When people disregard existing social contracts, it leads to defining deviancy down so that things society considered unacceptable becomes acceptable. For instance, it is not uncommon to hear Americans praising an individual for his/her achievements even though they may have succeeded through dubious means. Gómez (2017) elaborates that the country is not extremely lawless, but this is not because people hold the law sacred but rather because they fear being caught. Thus, without deterrence tactics, people the country’s level of lawfulness would be or near bankruptcy.
Besides the indirect signs of deteriorating respect for the rule of law in America, there exist direct signs. To start with, in the modern US, the executive branch leadership and activist judiciary tend to seek to establish law without following due process. According to Dees (2014), for these individuals, the Constitution is not sacrosanct. For them, the ends justify the means and, as such, separation of powers, the established checks and balances, as well as other principles of the US government only apply when supportive of their agendas. They flank to established law by executive orders or non-compliance; thus, disregarding Congress’s due process. Revival 2018) concurs with Dees’ argument whereby they state that the US has gradually lost its respect for the rule of law to the point that not everyone is accountable under the rule of law. If the rule of law is not equally enforced, then it ceases to be effective.
The judicial system also plays a central role in maintaining the rule of law. Therefore, it is also imperative to examine the current state of the rule of law from a judiciary perspective. According to Raz (2017), anything is the law for lawyers in today’s America as long as it meets the conditions and validity stipulated in the system’s rules recognition. As a result, there are many grey areas in the judicial system that have created loopholes for infringement of the rule of law. Gómez (2017) explains that the rule of law is a virtue that requires more than the law itself to ensure effectiveness and compliance. An effective way to uphold the rule of law in society is to remain clear on the aspects and values that the rule of law does not serve. Lawyers and other professionals in the judicial system who take advantage of the loopholes resulting from the lack of clear stipulations on what does not constitute law demonstrate declining morality in the US. Aagaard (2018) explains that guilt is mostly determined by his/her legal team in the modern US judicial system. If one has a strong legal team, they will likely be vindicated even though they might have committed a crime. On the other hand, one may be declared guilty in a court of law, even if they are innocent. This shows how far the US has lost its respect for the rule of law.
In concurrence with the argument made by Aagaard (2018), Platon and Pech (2018) elaborate that the reason why there are so many minorities in American prisons is the corrupted rule of law. Platon and Pech argue that it is not that minorities commit the most crimes in the US, but the law seems to be different for different individuals. Additionally, many innocent individuals in the American prison system are wrongly convicted because of their profile or lacked proper representation in a court of law (Gómez (2017). Such occurrences render equality, the central aspect of the rule of law, questionable. Equality before the rule of law is an integral part of the American system of governance as intended by the founding fathers. When a majority, whether acting intentionally or unintentionally, violates the equality of any individual, it translates to the rule of law and contradicts the Bill of Rights. The rule of law must be undergirded by an independent, self-confident justice system that upholds the values of equality and justice.
It is worth noting that this paper does not suggest that the US has completely lost its respect for the rule of law. However, overwhelming evidence shows that adherence to the rule of law in this nation has significantly dwindled. Whereas this might seem like a small issue, the fact is that even the slightest disregard for the rule of law can be detrimental to a nation. Gómez (2017) explains that if properly unaddressed, a small problem can quickly escalate to a massive issue as it leaves the door wide open for other evils. The deteriorating respect for the rule of law has been a long gradual process that has been surprisingly overlooked. As a result, currently, the US has allowed self-interest to prevail against the reason of the common good, leading to violation of unalienable rights, whether directly or indirectly, as the rule of law is not fully respected.
Root Cause of Deteriorating Respect for the Rule of Law
When faced with the question regarding who or what has caused the deteriorating respect for the rule of law in the US, one might be quick to answer it is the government. However, it is worth noting that the government derives its powers from the consent of the governed. The US Constitution begins with the phrase ‘we the people’ and then emphasizes the unalienable rights. As Dees (2014) elaborate, we the people is a phrase that refers to the citizens from whom the government derives its just powers. As such, to identify the root cause of the problem at hand, one must look within ‘we the people.’ Alistar (2019) illuminates that the rule of law is only functional if the citizens of a country agree that it is essential to follow laws in their everyday lives. The rule of law codifies the core values of a nation and, therefore, it is only by looking at it under the lens of ‘we the people’ that one can understand its functionality.
Dees (2014) suggest the primary cause of the deteriorating respect for the rule of war is the moral and spiritual erosion that the US has experienced over the years. According to Dees (2014), the laws of the land are supposed to be based on God’s natural law. It is for this nation that the Founding Fathers, even though they agreed to separate the State from the Church emphasized that America stands as one nation under God. Laws are established to maintain God’s established order, and if not underpinned by morality, they cease to be effective. In early America, citizens held morality at high standards and, this was evident in the way they carried their day-to-day lives. Notably, they did not live that way, for they feared being caught and punished by the law, but because they knew it was the right thing to do. In today’s America, people have largely lost their moral compass (Alistar, 2019). Even for the evils that they do not commit, it is because of the deterrence effect resulting from the established criminal laws. Consequently, this has resulted in the current state of the rule of law.
When citizens are not just to each other, they transfer the same power to the government. The continued lack of respect exhibited by US citizens over the years due to their eroded morality and spirituality has empowered the government to become unjust. As Dees (2014) put it, the government is natural evil, which, if effective, facilitates equality, justice, and prosperity, but if ineffective, hurt its people. The latter is what has happened in the US. The government has lost its respect for the people and, as a result, is hurting the people by being unfair to them, whereby elected officials and established systems and institutions are working to serve their selfish interests rather than promote equality and justice. Therefore, as the Americans are busy trying to find ways to circumvent laws, the government is borrowing a leaf from their dishonest practices. The outcome adversely impacts citizens.
As mentioned earlier, deteriorating morality is the cause of the lost respect for the rule of law in the US. However, it is worth noting that morality is related to spiritual infrastructure. A country’s spiritual infrastructure determined the direction it is going to take in almost all aspects. Dees (2014) elaborates that while a country may have many infrastructures, the most essential is spiritual infrastructure. It is the one that ensures that a nation maintains its ‘true north’ and thus, spiritual infrastructure exhibits a nation’s true strength. Among the ten defining subcomponents of spiritual infrastructure is respect for the rule of law. Therefore, if a country’s spiritual infrastructure weakens, then respect for the rule of law is bound to suffer. Dees explains that US dependence upon God has waned alarmingly over the years, and this poses a significant threat to the US a nation. Agreeably, the deteriorating lack of respect for the rule of law amplifies Dees’ concerns.
Respect for the Rule of Law and the Unalienable Rights
The unalienable rights that undergird the US have a biblical foundation. The Book of Genesis states that all humans are created in the image of God. This can translate to mean that all humans are equal and thus deserves equal treatment as it is their God-given right. Also, in James 2:9 (KJV), the Bible illuminates that if a person shows partiality, they commit a sin and be convicted by the law as transgressors. Notably, the unalienable rights incorporated in the Declaration of Independence include life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Respect or lack of the same for the rule of law directly impacts the three.
The unalienable right to life means that Americans have an entitlement to live, and their lives may not be surrendered to or taken. With this right comes the government’s responsibility to protect Americans’ lives from any threats (Berkowitz, 2020). The rule of law is the provision that ensures the promotion and protection of the common normative framework. It provides a structure through which the exercise of power is subject to specific rules that guarantee all human rights. If the rule of law is not upheld, human rights, including the right to life, are in jeopardy. For instance, the rule of law ensures that a country is safe by ensuring due process is followed when combating violent crimes. Lack of the same can lead to increased violent criminal activities that threaten the lives of the Americans. Therefore, the deteriorating rule of law threatens Americans’ right to life.
Liberty refers to an individual’s right to choose how they want to live their lives. Therefore, the unalienable right to liberty renders Americans free to have their own choices (Berkowitz, 2020). For instance, Americans are free to choose which religion to follow or even not have religious affiliations at all. The rule of law ensures that such rights remain reserved to the Americans. However, if, for instance, the government was to pass a law that forces people to follow a specific religion or dictates how they worship, it contradicts the rule of law since the due process is not followed. The rule of law, therefore, ensures that Americans enjoy their right to liberty. The dwindling respect for the rule of law in the US threatens this unalienable right.
Pursuit of Happiness
The unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness entails an individual’s right to choose the actions that allow them to achieve happiness. However, their actions must not interfere with other individuals’ happiness (Berkowitz, 2020). Suppose an individual is to be lawfully prohibited from doing an act that promotes their happiness. In that case, it must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they interfere with other people’s happiness by them doing so. In the Loving vs. Virginia case of 1967, the Court challenged a Virginia statute that prohibited interracial marriages. The Court cited that interracial marriages aligned with the right to the pursuit of happiness. If the rule of law does not adhere to such statutes and other actions could pose a significant threat to the pursuit of happiness.
The Seven Mountains of Culture
Besides the unalienable rights, respect for the rule of law relates to the seven mountains of culture. The seven mountains of culture include arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media, and religion (Dees, 2014). All these factors depend on the rule of law to thrive. Thus, a lack of respect for the rule of law negatively impacts the seven mountains of culture. For instance, when the government is formulating rules and regulations that affect the seven areas, it ensures that due process is followed. Thus, this promotes constitutionalism in the way things are done in America. If this constitutionalism were to be lost, then the nation would turn chaotic.
The above-discussed adverse consequences of deteriorating respect for the rule of law alludes to the need for urgent measures to remedy the problem at hand. This paper would have suggested that the government engage in a rigorous exercise of closing the loopholes within the rule of law and streamlining systems, institutions, and individuals in government offices. However, as identified in this paper, the key problem is not the systems, institutions, or government officials but rather the country’s weakened spiritual infrastructure. Therefore, the paper recommends that the government invests in efforts aimed to restore spiritual infrastructure in America. For instance, the government can invest in awareness campaigns to teach people the importance of having a strong spiritual foundation. The initiative will not be affiliated with any religious affiliation as it would be against the Constitution but would instead emphasize the need for people basing their day to day life as per the teachings of the religion of their choice (Sacramento, 2020). If successful, this will restore people’s belief in leading a righteous life – one that is free of immorality and respects the rule of law as God intends. Therefore, a long-lasting solution to the deteriorating respect for the rule of law in America is the restoration of its spiritual infrastructure; that is, as it was in its infant years.
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