THE RULE OF RULE OF LAW

The basic ingredients for a successful society do not change. Our Torah portion says:

צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף לְמַ֤עַן תִּֽחְיֶה֙ וְיָרַשְׁתָּ֣ אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־ה' אֱלֹקֶ֖יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָֽךְ׃

Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Rashi quotes the Sifrei:

 כְּדַאי הוּא מִנּוּי הַדַּיָּנִין הַכְּשֵׁרִים לְהַחֲיוֹת אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל וּלְהוֹשִׁיבָן עַל אַדְמָתָן

The appointment of honest judges is sufficient merit to keep Israel in life and to settle them in security in their land.

While Rashi appears to suggest that these rewards function through God's agency, justice also leads naturally to prosperity.

In any large economy, we depend upon the cooperation of lots of different people doing lots of different things. The steel mill requires energy and raw materials from some other company, and in turn provides metal for manufacturers who need that steel to meet particular specifications. Thus, economies require coordination. For this coordination to happen, people need some assurance that their agreements will generally be honoured, and that there will be predictable consequences when they aren't. Contract enforcement is an important part of any legal system, and Rule of Law means that it will be done in a consistent way. This consistency is required to have large amounts of cooperation and trade (which is thus necessary to have a successful economy and society).

The Torah tells us that to have a prosperous society, we must invest in justice. Forces will always be arrayed against Rule of Law. All sorts of powerful individuals will seek to pervert justice for their short-term interests. History is littered by the failure of societies that allow such abuses. As we read our parsha, let us recommit to the ideal of Rule of Law. May we each work in our own small way toward maintaining our society's commitment to this principle.