When people say something is “better”, they could mean different things. In arguing whether greater compliance with rule of law make a legal system better, we risk talking past each other and ending up in a chorus of confusion. In this essay, I propose to look at “better” in three senses. First, whether the principles of the rule of law improve the efficacy of laws. Second, whether higher compliance with the rule of law in itself a moral merit for a legal system. Third, whether a sound rule of law in a legal system promotes better compliance of its laws with other substantive principles of morality.
These are related but separate questions to be answered, although they are unfortunately entangled in the debate among Fuller, Raz and other philosophers. Their contrasting views will be analyzed only where necessary in answering the question I posed above. One contentious aspect that I am only able to briefly analyze is the so-called thick/thin conception of rule of law. Adopting Lamond’s middle-course approach, I argue for an affirmative answer to all three questions above, albeit for different reasons and with important qualifications.
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