The Rule of Law is a theory, idea, or concept which embodies the law as authority in any given situation rather than an individual, government, or any other entity.

This is in sharp contrast to the phrase "rule of man," in which an entity or person, such as a government or ruling body, has the authority under the law.

The World Justice Project has submitted the following four principles as working definitions to the Rule of Law:
  1. Recognition of universal and inalienable human rights and freedoms and the dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.
  2. Respect for the law and promoting justice are essential foundations of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.
  3. Under the rule of law, justice is the constant and perpetual will of all right-thinking members of society, expressed through governmental and non-governmental institutions, to ensure compliance with the laws and redress human rights violations.
  4. Legal certainty is achieved through the application of the general principles of law and, in particular, through:
a. the application and interpretation of laws and their conformity with international human rights norms and standards; and
b. the due and fair enforcement of laws to protect human rights; a system of self-government where all entities, from software to services to people, are accountable under the law.

A system based on fair, publicly-known, well-established rules.
  • A legal system that makes it easy for people to access legal advice and representation, make high-quality complaints when necessary, and challenge decisions or processes that seem unfair.
  • Diverse, competent, and independent lawyers and judges.
  • Many countries and governments "direct democracies" hold elections and seek to rule by the "will of the majority" a formal phrase for what is commonly known as democracy. With this interpretation, the government of and by the (voting) populace must support and reflect the ideas and decisions of the populace.

While civilization relied on the law before the dawn of the written word, in the scenario depicted here, laws were established by the people's political bodies and the people's consensus. This supports the theory that the rule of law equals the people's authority.