Family Research Council

The Decay of Liberty and the Rule of Law in 21st Century America

By Peter Johnston

Ideas have consequences.

When walking through a law library in Cambridge, Mass., as I did with my son a number of years ago, one comes across an arresting inscription: “OF LAW THERE CAN BE NO LESSE ACKNOWLEDGED THAN THAT HER SEATE IS THE BOSOME OF GOD, Bishop Hooker, Ecclesiastical Politie, 1st Booke, p. 94 (1604).” This inscription is found in the Langdell Reading Room of the law library at Harvard University, whose motto is “Veritas,” the Latin word for “truth.” As we will explore, the concept of the law whose “seate is the bosome of God” is the basis for the American rule of law. Over time, however, this idea has been deliberately set aside (including, ironically, efforts initiated at Harvard, as we will see), leading to a very different “rule of law” that has adversely affected America into the 21st century. This disturbing trend has harmfully impacted not only the field of law but also economic markets and constitutional liberty. Ideas do have consequences.

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