The Selsdon Manifesto

The Selsdon Manifesto dates from the Group's founding in 1973. Nearly fifty years on progress has been made in some areas, particularly in the balance between the public and private sector. Some sections however remain relevant today

The Rule of Law

If society is to enjoy the benefits of freedom, the latter must be protected by a framework of general rules guarding against force and fraud and binding on all. General rules interpreted and enforced by an independent judiciary leave the individual the maximum freedom of action that can be reconciled with the provision of that minimum of stability and cohesion without which social co-operation is impossible. The Rule of Law means the rule of predictable and intelligible laws in the absence of which the individual citizen becomes the victim of political and administrative arbitrariness. The principle has been increasingly violated by successive British governments, in particular in the field of economic and financial policy. Governments have established so-called ‘voluntary’ guidelines to businessmen on such matters as loans, interest rates, prices and profits. These guidelines have not had any legal force buthave been obediently followed because of the implicit threat that failure to comply would force the government to resort to statutory coercion. The Rule of Law has become the Rule of the Threat of Law in too many areas of our national life. The Rule of Law cannot prevail in a society in which the powers of the state are extended daily. Increasing government interference in the economy (especially in prices and incomes) enlarges the scope of political and administrative discretion and increases the unpredictable and arbitrary nature of law and legislation. Consequently, anomalies multiply, the citizen’s sense of justice is offended, and respect for the law declines. At the same time, in the face of the state’s growing monopoly of decision-making power, the individual becomes increasingly disillusioned with public men and alienated from the political process. The result is the mushroom growth of protest movements, strikes, demonstrations, and street violence, that has become so characteristic of contemporary industrial societies. If the Rule of Law is not to be undermined and our freedoms gradually destroyed, government must be more limited than it is today.