The Rule of Law Index: 2017-2018

The World Justice Project (WJP) has published the results of an ambitious and challenging project to rank the world’s nations according to their effectiveness in achieving the “Rule of Law”. For the study year, the United States ranks #19, down one rank from last year.

It’s always important to understand the methods and criteria used in these rankings in order to appreciate their potential usefulness. The WJP defines the Rule of Law according to four (4) primary characteristics:

  1. Accountability – government and private sector entities are held to account.
  2. Just Laws – laws are clear, stable, well publicized, applied evenly, and respect personal rights.
  3. Open Government – the legal process is exercised in a consistent, transparent, and fair manner.
  4. Accessible and Impartial Dispute Resolution – justice is delivered in a timely and efficient manner, with all parties having access to equitable and necessary resources.

My opinion is that based on the criteria above, the WJP has it down just about right. As an American, I can see where our country doesn’t even rank in the top 10. Indeed, over several decades we’ve witnessed a steady erosion of our system in all 4 of these categories – from “over prosecution” to civil asset forfeiture to ambiguous laws and diminished transparency.

The “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror” have both exacted a heavy toll on American jurisprudence, with individual rights and privacy taking an ever increasing “backseat” to prosecutorial “results”.

Food for thought – I encourage you to read the report in depth.

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