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The Rule of Law [Paperback]

Tom Bingham
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
Price: 5.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

24 Feb 2011

'The Rule of Law' is a phrase much used but little examined. The idea of the rule of law as the foundation of modern states and civilisations has recently become even more talismanic than that of democracy, but what does it actually consist of?

In this brilliant short book, Britain's former senior law lord, and one of the world's most acute legal minds, examines what the idea actually means. He makes clear that the rule of law is not an arid legal doctrine but is the foundation of a fair and just society, is a guarantee of responsible government, is an important contribution to economic growth and offers the best means yet devised for securing peace and co-operation. He briefly examines the historical origins of the rule, and then advances eight conditions which capture its essence as understood in western democracies today. He also discusses the strains imposed on the rule of law by the threat and experience of international terrorism.

The book will be influential in many different fields and should become a key text for anyone interested in politics, society and the state of our world.


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The Rule of Law + What About Law?: Studying Law at University + Letters to a Law Student: A Guide to Studying Law at University
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Reprint edition (24 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014103453X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141034539
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.7 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Tom Bingham, 'the most eminent of our judges' (Guardian), held office successively as Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and Senior Law Lord of the United Kingdom, the only person ever to hold all three offices. He became a life peer, as Baron Bingham of Cornhill in the County of Powys, on becoming Lord Chief Justice in 1996. In 2005 he was appointed a Knight of the Garter, the first professional judge to be so honoured. He retired in 2008, and in the same year was elected by the Institut de France as the first winner of the Prize for Law awarded by the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and persuasive 4 Feb 2010
By J. Baldwin VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although dealing with complex legal concepts, Bingham writes so clearly and elegantly that this book is a joy to read and is perfectly comprehensible to a lay person. (Indeed, this is the readership at which it is aimed.) The 'rule of law' is a vitally important subject and this book should be read by anyone who seeks to understand better the meaning of the concept and who is concerned about the erosion of human rights in this country. Though the writing is balanced and measured throughout, Bingham pulls no punches in his observations about the legality of the Iraq War and the justifications put forward by Bush, Blair and their cronies - his commentary on the war is as incisive (and as devastating) as anything I have read on the subject. The book is a legal tour de force, written by this country's most distinguished jurist.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling 21 Feb 2010
Format:Hardcover
Concise, compelling and written with an agreeable dry wit, The Rule of Law is both instructive and enjoyable. While written primarily from a British perspective, the book includes helpful discussion of US and continental European applications. It takes the reader through a brief history of the concept of the rule of law, its key substantive content and concludes with discussion of its applicability to international relations and of issues raised by terrorism and parliamentary sovereignty. Although primarily analytical, the book also has a polemical edge - until I read it I thought that the arguments about the legality of the Iraq war were essentially academic, of no real political or practical importance. Bingham persuaded me otherwise.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, unsettling. 7 May 2011
Format:Paperback
I kept wanting to call the author "Honest Tom Bingham". He was a Supreme Court Judge in Britain, unafraid of Europe, he comes across as a real internationalist, a universal values individual. His writing style is clear and unadorned, honest Tom.
He lets the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights bellow for themselves. He follows the development of Habeas Corpus, and lets us contrast this with Guantanamo. As you would expect with a judge, everything, eventually becomes either right or wrong. The ambiguity of the West's response to Terrorism is anathema to him. Let the Sky's fall.
So, in my praise of this book ,also comes my reservation. Individuals allow their behaviour in societies be guided by laws, to which they have some input and to which they give consent. If done impartially, judgements can be accepted. Laws made by dictators are invalid from their inception, (so, no, you cant just be obeying orders). Fine on the first bit, what do you do about the second bit?
So the specific unease. What do we do about assassinations ordered by democratically elected politicians, done in the name of protecting society from terrorists? How far do we go?
I write this in the week when Osama Bin Laden was killed. I am not sure if the killing was legal, per se, though I can see how it was justified. I think that if he had been captured alive, there would have been an almighty legal tangle about where to jail him, where to try him etc. And yet he was a homicidal maniac, with quite a following. Also I am aware of the Tunisian revolution, sparked by a youth committing suicide in despair at this treatment by a corrupt government. The rule of the people overthrew the government, not the rule of law.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Law is King - Long live the King 19 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback
I have never read a book more enlightening with respect to how the world of humans works - and how it got to work that way. It starts with a very broad overview of the concept of the Rule of Law:

"...that all persons and authorities within the state, whether public or private, should be bound by and entitled to the benefit of laws publicly made, taking effect (generally ) in the future and publicly administered in the courts."

and its origins and formulation:

"It is better for the law to rule than one of the citizens" - Aristotle

and what happens when it fails:

"The hallmarks of a regime which flouts the rule of law are, alas, all too familiar: the midnight knock on the door, the sudden disappearance, the show trial, the subjection of prisoners to genetic experiment, the confession extracted by torture...."

The second chapter describes the legal milestones in its development from the Magna Carta to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A key feature is that it seems few of the participants thought they were being especially innovative. The bulk of the book is concerned with working through the various aspects such as due process and a fair trial. A lot of attention is paid to human rights and I was actually surprised how uncontroversial they should be. It becomes obvious that really not even the poorest countries have any excuse not to uphold these ideals.

Inevitably there is a long chapter on the US and UK response to the terrorism, in which it becomes clear that both countries in different ways have helped the terrorist cause by gnawing away at our liberty.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
wife liked it
Published 10 days ago by A. Valkov
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great value and fast delivery
Published 1 month ago by Brenda2812
1.0 out of 5 stars PC GILLIAN WEATHERLEY
ONE MUST QUESTION WHY THIS LIAR AND CORRUPT OFFICER IN THE PLEBGATE AFFAIR WAS NOT SENT FOR TRIAL AND JUST DISMISSED FRM THE POLICE. Read more
Published 2 months ago by CENTRAL LONDON MAN
5.0 out of 5 stars Cutting Edge Views from a Leader in the Field
This is analysis of the rule of law at its best from one of the leading
legal thinkers of our age.
Published 5 months ago by mary vogel
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Very thorough exposition of the rule of law in England and the possible conflict with the supremacy of parliament. Very good.
Published 7 months ago by Paul
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book.
Bought this as I had lost my old copy, it is a MUST read, even if you are not interested in 'law' it is amazing.
Published 8 months ago by TheVimtoMan
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, and not just for those doing law
I chose this rating because i found the book to be very informative, but i didn't give it the full 5 stars because it requires a lot of concentration to read the book fully, and... Read more
Published 9 months ago by B22
5.0 out of 5 stars top book
very informative book a great read ,this was a great help in helping me with my work towards my law degree
Published 9 months ago by mr geoff howkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Written by the true Master himself. This is essential reading for all citizens and certainly for all those interested in law. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Captain Walker
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but not quite what I was looking for
This is a very interesting book, written in a clear style. Although the writing bears the marks of a very distinguished legal mind it is not stuffy and not obscure. Read more
Published 10 months ago by John Ogden
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