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The Rule of Law Paperback – 24 Feb 2011


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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: 13 x 1.4 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,054 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.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 75 people found the following review helpful By J. Baldwin VINE VOICE on 4 Feb 2010
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By mad_humanist on 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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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A reader, South London on 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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Hugh Claffey on 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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