Law and Philosophy 23 (1):1-43 (2004)

Andrei Marmor
Cornell University
"[W]e must focus on what legalism, per se, means, and then ask why is it a good thing to have. Not less importantly, however, we must also realize that legalism can be excessive. Even if the rule of law is a good thing, too much of it may be bad. So the challenge for a theory of the rule of law is to articulate what the rule of law is, why is it good, and to what extent." "[T]he essense of the ideal of the rule of law is that people ought to be governed by law. This general ideal has at least two main components. First, it requires that governments, namely, de facto political authorities, should rule, that is, guide their subjects' conduct, by law. Second, it requires that the law by which governments purport to rule should be such that it can actually guide human conduct." "The idea that governments should rule by law must be premised on the assumption that rule by law, regardless of the laws' specific content, is to be preferred to governance by other means of social control. And this immediately brings us to the second component of the rule of law, namely, that the law must be such that it can actually guide human conduct, and the further assumption that these necessary features of law embody certain virtues. In other words, unless we can first articulate what is unique about legal means of social control, and explain why those features promote certain goods, we cannot ground the idea that governments should rule by law." Discusses ways, following mainly Fuller, one can fail to make law. Notes that these are functional goods for the regulation of human behavior. They may have a connection to other things we value. We should not assume, though, that greater instantiation of these ideals is always better - sometimes ideals conflict such that more of one means less of another and "because such values, on their own grounds, set only a rough standard wherby gross deviations from it would be wrong." "Compliance with the generality-relevance principle is crucially important in safeguarding against such unjustified favoritism since it requires that the norm's subjects be those who qualify as such only on the basis of the reasons for enacting the norm in the first place." Though, we must recognize teh possibility of bad law in the sense of unjust discrimination. "It is part of the concept of law that the law purports to affect human behavior by introducing new norms and changing old ones. The concept of a norm and conduct-guidance by norms is an essential aspect of what the law is. Norms, as such, necessarily purport to provide reasons for action. A norm cannot provide a reason for action, however, unless its subjets are aware of the norm and regard it as a reason for action." Justifies some retroactivity in terms of the need for flexibility in any functioning legal system. "Legal positivism can accept the claim that law is, by its very nature or its essential functions in society, something good that deserves our moral appreciation. Nor is legal positivism forced to deny the plausible claim that wherever law exists, it must have a great many prescriptions which coincide with morality. There is probably a considerable overlap, and perhaps necessarily so, between the actual content of law and morality."
Keywords Law   Logic   Philosophy of Law   Law Theory/Law Philosophy   Political Science   Social Issues
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DOI 10.1023/B:LAPH.0000004356.03016.d5
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