Rule of Law

Rule of Law

The Rule of Law is a principle established in ancient Greece that holds all people and organizations accountable to the same set of laws. It has had a profound effect on civilizations across the world.


5 - 8


Social Studies, Ancient Civilizations, Civics


Rule of Law

Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle outlines the Rule of Law in this work titled Politics.

Photograph by George Bernard/Science Photo Library
Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle outlines the Rule of Law in this work titled Politics.

The Rule of Law is a principle that all people and organizations within a country, state, or community are held accountable to the same set of laws. The Rule of Law has its origins in ancient Greece and, more specifically, in the philosophy of Aristotle. In his work titled Politics, Aristotle raised the question of whether it is better to be ruled by the best leader or the best laws. In exploring this question he found advantages and disadvantages to both governing methods. His conclusion, however, suggested that laws were appropriate for most societies since they were carefully thought out and could be applied to most situations. Therefore, people should be ruled by the best laws.

In modern times, many countries throughout the world have agreed that the Rule of Law should be followed. In the United States, this means that no one, not even the president, is above the law. The United States federal courts also consider the Rule of Law to apply to corporations and institutions. The courts further state that all people should be held accountable to laws that are publically accessible and judged independently. Laws should be enforced equally and consistently, adhering also to international human rights principles. The Rule of Law provides modern societies with stability and a clear system for resolving conflicts between citizens within a community of any size.

Media Credits

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Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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