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Journal 4: law and the state


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Journal 4: law and the state

  1. 1. Law  and  the  state                   Journal  entry  08/10/2010   Steven  Lauwers     As   I   mentioned   in   our   lab,   I   am   confused   about   this   week’s   topic:   the   rule   of   law.   Not   particularly   about   what   it   is,   but   how   it   is   created,   managed   and   also   justified.  During  our  economics  lecture,  we  briefly  looked  at  the  principal  –  agent   theory,  which  gave  me  the  idea  for  this  journal:  it  might  be  interesting  theory  to   analyze   the   rule   of   law   via   this   theory.   The   result   might   be   a   bit   extreme,   but   the   thinking  exercise  is  certainly  worth  it.       One   of   the   main   messages   Professor   Preuss   wanted   us   to   take   away   from   the   Hart   text   is   the   idea   that   law   provides   a   framework   for   society,   that   modern   society  is  so  complex  that  laws  are  necessary:  they  provide  the  structure  of  the   game.   i  Let  us  look  at  this  idea  through  the  principal  –  agent  theory.  The  idea  is   that   the   principal   gives   the   agent   control   over   resources,   so   that   the   agent   can   manage  these  resources  in  the  interest  of  the  principal.  A  problem  occurs  when   the  agreement  does  not  provide  enough  incentives  for  the  agent  and  he  therefore   decides   to   use   the   delegated   authority   for   his   own,   rather   than   the   principal’s   interest.       If   applied   to   law   and   society,   we   could   say   society   gave   power   to   the   state   to   uphold   the   law.   According   to   A.   Supiot,   every   contract   needs   a   guarantor,   somebody   who   guarantees   the   agreement   will   be   respected   by   both   parties   (through  sanctions,  incentives,  …).  He  claims  in  modern  society  this  is  the  state.  ii   And  this  is  where  I  see  the  problem  in  the  relationship:  how  can  the  guarantor  of   the   contract   also   be   subject   to   it?   How   can   we   be   sure   that   a   state   will   not   abuse   this   position?   Where   last   week   we   learned   that   a   state   needs   rule   of   law   to   control  the  monopoly  a  state  has  on  force,  iii  I  now  wonder  who  controls  the  state   does  not  abuse  its  power?       Professor   Dr.   K.   Preuss   used   a   quote   in   his   lecture,   that   reflects   that   problem:   “Auctoritas,   non   veritas   facit   legem”   iv   (Th.   Hobbes,   1588   –   1679).   Have   we  
  2. 2. moved  away  from  law  as  a  means  to  realize  good  and  avoid  evil?  Is  the  fact  that   law   is   based   on   authority   a   danger   to   society   or   can   we   just   assume   the   other   party,  the  state,  will  uphold  its  side  of  the  contract?  When  explaining  the  role  in   modern  society,  Professor  Dr.  K.  Preuss  quoted  A.  Dicey,  who  said  that  one  of  the   three  meanings  of  the  rule  of  law   v  is  equality,  equal  subjection  of  all  classes  to   the  (…)  law.    At  what  exact  moment  does  society  not  provide  enough  incentive   for  the  state  to  respect  the  agreement  and  put  itself  above  law,  rather  than  being   subject  to  it?                                                                                                                               i  Hart,  H.  L.  A.  (1979  [1961]).  The  Concept  of  Law.   ii  Supiot,  A.  (2007).  Homo  Juridicus.  On  the  Anthropological  Functions  of  the  Law.  p.  93   iii  “A  compulsory  political  organization  with  continuous  operations  (…)  insofar  as  its   administrative  staff  successfully  upholds  the  claim  to  the  monopoly  of  the  legitimate  use  of   physical  force  in  the  enforcement  of  its  order”.    Weber  M.  (1978  (1922)):  Economy  and  Society.  An   Outline  of  Interpretative  Sociology.  p.  54   iv  Authority,  not  truth  makes  law.   v  Dicey,  A.  V.  (1982  [1915]).  Introduction  to  the  study  of  the  law  of  the  constitution.  p.  120.