A. Protections against corruption in the government

Rule of law: all people are equally accountable to the laws

The most basic safeguard against corruption in government is a system that holds everyone in the nation, including the highest government officials, equally accountable before the law. This is the most basic guarantee that leaders will use their power for the benefit of the people as a whole. Even if the president or the king violates the law, he will be brought to trial and, if he is found guilty, he will be punished. In addition, the rule of law means that poor, powerless individuals will receive just treatment from the law.

The rule of law, ideally, does not merely mean that an arbitrary set of laws is in place. It also includes the idea that the law has moral authority. This is because the laws are derived from higher principles of justice and impartiality, so that all people are treated equally before the law.[1]

As we saw earlier (154-55), the classic example of this in the biblical history of Israel is the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12). Even David the king was held accountable before the laws of God that he had violated.

This idea of the rule of law was increasingly held in Britain and in Northern Europe more generally during the Industrial Revolution, and the growing respect for this principle was one of the keys to Northern Europe’s remarkable economic development. Both British statesmen and clergymen imprinted on British constitutional theory the idea that “the king is under God—and under the law. This was the essence of Christian teaching about the state.”[2]

One good recent example of the highest official being made subject to the law happened in Honduras in 2009. President Manuel Zelaya attempted to change the constitution of the nation so that he could stay in office for another term (or more). But the constitution specified that the term limit for the president could not be changed. So the Honduran Supreme Court ordered him removed from office, and the military did so. In a subsequent election, his party was soundly defeated. Even the president was not above the law.[3]

But if government officials are able to violate the law without punishment, then there are no external restraints on their use of their power. In such cases, many officials will become corrupt, using government power not to enforce justice fairly but to gain privileges and riches for themselves, their relatives, and their friends.

There are numerous examples of countries where certain officials have been or are above the law, including the communist nations of the Soviet Union, Cuba, and North Korea; Iraq under the former dictatorship of Saddam Hussein; and several countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • [1] We believe that the requirement to treat people justly and impartially is itself anchored in the idea ofthe equal creation of all people in the image of God. This idea of equality by creation (that is, the ideathat all people are equal because they were created equal by God) was widely believed in Colonial Americansociety; see Thomas Kidd, God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution (New York: BasicBooks, 2010), 131-46. The Founding Fathers of the United States proclaimed it a “self-evident” truththat “all men are created equal” and therefore have been given “by their Creator” certain “inalienablerights,” including the rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, paragraph 2).
  • [2] M. Stanton Evans, The Theme Is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition (Washington: Reg-nery, 1994), 32.
  • [3] See details in Wayne Grudem, Politics—According to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 445-48.
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