Why the rule of law is so important

A series of films by the capital’s Judicial Department is taking law out of the courtroom

‘The rule of law” sounds simple enough: there are laws laid down by government, and everyone in the country has to obey them. It is, in truth, something more complex, and involves the primacy of laws over the all-too-human instinct for a shortcut. It is about suppressing the urge to gain an unfair advantage, for the eventual betterment of all who reside in any one country.

Those nations where the rule of law is weak – where rules exist but are not enforced or are malleable – tend to end up in a morass of lawlessness and corruption. Every country – whether in the West or in the developing world – must guard against any creeping erosion of the primacy of prudent laws (there are, of course, imprudent laws, but that’s another story), or build up new sinews to defend them.

Against this, we find the series of films by the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department to be particularly heartening. The ADJD films show fictional examples of people committing what they believe to be low-level criminal acts, such as seeking to pay strangers to act as witnesses for a court case. Of course, subornation of perjury is far from a “low-level” crime. More than that, any attempt to undercut the proper due process of law undermines the entire edifice of society. It is that important.

This in turn reminds us of the imperative of adhering to even minor rules, because the act of observing small regulations inculcates a sense of the importance of more significant laws. We do not say that a man who breaks the speed limit is going to become a bank robber, of course. But someone who strictly subjects himself to be ruled by the laws of the road when he is behind the wheel is unlikely to be morally flexible about the larger issues to be found within jurisprudence.

Proper, well-thought-out and prudent laws are the foundation of a nation. They define the parameters of civil society. Conversely, if laws become elastic, then the boundaries of life become distended into dysfunction. We can certainly see examples of this in this region and beyond. Indeed, even well-functioning states can quickly succumb. For this reason, then, it is incumbent on all – in the interest of the greater good – to guard against the possible encroachment of the far-too-natural urge to cut corners. And by that, we don’t only mean on the road.