Message from the Chairman

Concerns centered on the rule of law are the consistency, predictability, and transparency of the law.  Legal rules that are variable, intrusive, and unclear stand in the way of economic freedom and global progress.

Rule of law concerns also focus on the degree to which legal rules and processes give those who apply the law discretion, as opposed to directing them in ways that are more constraining.  Greater discretion tends to encourage less predictable and less principled decision-making.

The last century saw an extraordinary expansion of markets and of world trade.  But it also saw a proliferation of barriers to open markets.  Even regimes that are ostensibly open to individual decision-making, that embrace strong property rights, and that are governed by law, have seen marked increases in governmental control over individual action and derogations of property rights.

Often, derogations from the rule of law occur within realms of administrative or judicial discretion.  Lawsuits with little or no prospect of providing money to any injured party are brought by lawyers who stand to profit handsomely and entertained by courts, at great expense to the public.  At times, businesses engaged in ordinary commercial conduct that serves consumers’ interests face huge financial penalties tied to novel and unproven theories.

Although many barriers to international trade, investment, and competition have been lowered, there remain substantial barriers, both formal and, more often, informal – including regulatory and litigation related barriers – that are used in many nations to protect national champions against efficient global competitors.  These barriers constitute a tax on citizens and an impediment to the economic advancement which is critical to progress in so many areas.

Scholars affiliated with the Center for the Rule of Law explore these and other issues, analyzing the operation of various governmental, legal, and regulatory programs and rules, assessing their consistency with rule of law values.

- Honorable Ronald A. Cass, Chairman