The highly regarded World Justice Project, an independent organization in Washington, D.C. that promotes the rule of law, has used 47 indicators organized around nine themes to generate a so-called “Rule of Law Index.” Using this Index, the World Justice Project then ranked 99 of the world’s nations according to the extent to which the rule of law was truly operative in those nations’ daily life. The United States ranked nineteenth.
This ranking is surely respectable. Americans could conceivably be pleased the United States compares so well to nations such as Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, and Venezuela, which do in fact appear at the bottom of the World Justice Project’s ranking. But at the same time Americans could be disappointed that the top four nations are, in order, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. What’s more, other nations with a common law heritage such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand also rank higher than the United States.
The ranking is especially surprising given familiar American boasting that their nation lives by the rule of law rather than by the rule of men and that their nation is exceptional in this regard. A belief in the rule of law, in my opinion, has been a central tenet of American ideology since the earliest decades of the Republic. However, all ideological tenets should be subject to vigorous critique, lest they be used for political purposes.