A “rule of law” is based on general principles, and makes room for — or, better yet, is based upon — the protection of individual rights.
It used to be common to say, “a rule of law, not of men”; it was even as common in political oratory as was spouted out over drinks at the Rotary. But as the modern Regulatory State has grown in scope and power, most folks seem to have lost track of the notion. It is now not even a cliché. Few even of our most educated folks can explain this idea. Vast swaths of the mis-educated public appear not to “get” the idea of limiting government to the enforcement of a few general principles; instead, they cry for more “regulations” (along with additional spending and maybe even a whole new division of the executive government) every time a crisis, tragedy or atrocity occurs.
So we are left with a political culture in which the words of Tacitus seem to a majority as implausible at best, evil at worst: “The more the laws, the more corrupt the State.” Contrary to today’s trendy prejudice, we do not need “more laws” — edicts legislated by representatives, or regulations concocted by bureaucracies — we need Law.
As in, “a rule of Law.”