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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and persuasive
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...
Published on 4 Feb 2010 by J. Baldwin

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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly shallow and basic
The book is suitable for the general reader with no wish to acquire a critical understanding of the concept of the rule of law, and even as preliminary reading for students preparing to study law at university or a graduate conversion course for non-law graduates wishing to qualify as a lawyer. It is well written and gives a good summary of British constitutional history...
Published 13 months ago by James Selby


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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and persuasive, 4 Feb 2010
By 
J. Baldwin "JB" (Birmngham, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Rule of Law (Hardcover)
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
This review is from: The Rule of Law (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
By 
Hugh Claffey (Co. Kildare Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Rule of Law (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.
So it seems there is a basic tension about the rule of law, and its relationship to communal violence and governance which still leaves us uneasy.
Tom Bingham doesn't address this, but brings us through the facets of the rule of law which underlie developed society. During the `Arab spring' his book made me realize why China and Russia are probably terrified of civil unrest, whereas the democratic world can and should welcome it.
Honest Tom Bingham's book is a must-read to understand where the tensions lie.
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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
This review is from: The Rule of Law (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. There is a final chapter on the peculiar situation of the Westminster Parliament, whose sovreignty means that the Briton's liberty could theoretically be undermined by the will of that Parliament.

Altogether this is a surprisingly readable book - and one which must be extremely useful to any skeptical reader wanting to know what is really at stake in the world of law.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, 25 April 2010
By 
J. Letts "joethebus" (Dorset, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Rule of Law (Hardcover)
If you haven't ever read a law book, and you are pretty certain you will never read another - read this one. Astonishingly it is a read in one sitting (ish) pot boiler and gives all the history you need to know to understand why good law is so vitally important in our increasingly complex and overcrowded world.

You will not regret shelling out a tenner or so for this book and will be rewarded with a concise explanation of what law is, what it does, how it protects us and why we need it so much - written by a man whose crystal clear insights are a joy. Do it. Read it.

It's worth the cover money just to learn exactly why it is the Iraq invasion was illegal - but is much, much more than that.

Joe Letts
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 29 Jan 2013
By 
Mr. M. Mcallister "McAllister" (Lancashire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Rule of Law (Paperback)
A couple of years ago I stumbled across Tom Bingham's obituary in the paper. I was completely ignorant of the man but occupying an entire page, I read out of curiosity. The obituary described a man who had intelligence, fairness and humility in abundance and who was an ardent defender of the principles at the heart of the justice system, and who wasn't afraid to ruffle feathers. The book confirmed all these attributes and these are expressed with a conciseness that informs the ignorant without any condescension. A really great read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant in so far as it goes, 6 Mar 2010
By 
Aidan J. McQuade (Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Rule of Law (Hardcover)
This book provides a lucid explication of the concept of rule of law, including, for good measure, a brutal demolition of the legal case for the 2003 Iraq war. The only failing I found was that Lord Bingham fails to consider how the evolution of trans-national corporations challenges the comprehensivenss of the concept he outlines. Given the proliferation of these entities and the way in which the political economy of the world is globalising this is a critical omission - but I suppose one can't have everything. Aside from this it is an exempliary piece of writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short, readable, excellent, 27 May 2013
By 
Samuel Romilly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Rule of Law (Hardcover)
Lord Bingham, as modest Tom was officially called, was a most distinguished Lord Chief Justice. This little book joins a long line of books by his illustrious predecessors on English law. It distills his wisdom and provides a most accessible entree into the importance of our legal tradition
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant exposition, 26 Feb 2013
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This review is from: The Rule of Law (Paperback)
Short clear chapters cover the rule of law and its relationship to the sovereignty of Parliament. Very impressive in intellectual grasp and sheer common sense.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine study of what the rule of law means in practice, 19 Nov 2010
By 
William Podmore (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Rule of Law (Hardcover)
Tom Bingham, Lord Chief Justice 1996-2008, presents eight parts of the rule of law: The law must be accessible and so far as possible intelligible, clear and predictable. Questions of legal right and liability should ordinarily be resolved by application of the law and not the exercise of discretion. Laws should apply equally to all, unless objective differences justify differentiation. Ministers and public officers at all levels must exercise the powers conferred on them in good faith, fairly, for the purpose for which the powers were conferred, without exceeding the limits of such powers and not unreasonably. The law must afford adequate protection of fundamental human rights. Means must be provided for resolving, without prohibitive cost or inordinate delay, bona fide civil disputes which the parties themselves are unable to resolve. Adjudicative procedures provided by the state should be fair. The rule of law requires compliance by the state with its obligations in international law as in national law.

The European Convention on Human Rights (1950) was effected here by the Human Rights Act (1998). It says, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." (The US Bill of Rights bans the infliction of `cruel and unusual punishments'.) It bans slavery and forced labour - -even for benefits. It asserts the rights to life, liberty and security, to a fair trial, and to respect for privacy and family life. It upholds freedom of thought, conscience, religion, expression, assembly and association.

Article 1 of its Protocols protects: "Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law. ... The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of the State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties." Article 2 asserts the right to education.

Bingham argues that "The rule of law requires that the law afford adequate protection of fundamental human rights." A Constitution is not enough, nor is a merely rhetorical commitment to the rule of law.

He looks at terrorism's impact on the rule of law and urges that our responses be lawful, not a mimicry of the terrorists' actions. He warns, "it cannot be said that the UK has shown that implacable opposition to torture and its fruits which might have been expected of the state whose courts led the world in rejecting them both. In a sequel to the Belmarsh case ... the Government argued that evidence obtained by torture abroad without the complicity of the British authorities could be considered by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, a contention which the House of Lords unanimously and strongly rejected."

Finally, he states, "The invasion of Iraq was `a serious violation of international law and of the rule of law'.
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The Rule of Law
The Rule of Law by Tom Bingham (Paperback - 24 Feb 2011)
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