John Carey, professor of government at Dartmouth University, believes that next to free and fair elections, one of the most important defining characteristics of democracy is the rule of law. While the citizens of a democracy choose their leaders and representatives through elections, the rule of law defines the relationship between representatives and citizens between elections.
So what is the rule of law? Most simply put, it means that laws apply equally to everyone in a democracy, even the most powerful government officials and elected leaders. It also means that laws are created through a predetermined, open, and transparent process, not by the whim of the most powerful members of society.
This lesson provides students with the opportunity to both learn what it means to respect the rule of law and consider its importance in a democracy. Students will listen to John Carey, professor of government at Dartmouth University, tell a story from his travels to Chile that illustrates how a country's respect for the rule of law can be apparent even in the most seemingly mundane circumstances. Then they will research current events from around the world that illustrate the relationship between the rule of law and healthy democracy.