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Rule of Law: Study Questions

Suggested Review Questions and Activities

Teachers: The following are questions and activities that can be given to your students after they read the materials in each section. The questions are meant to be asked as a review exercise, although some encourage critical thinking as well. The activities can be presented as classroom exercises or as individual homework assignments. Unlike the questions, they tend to require additional research. Some call for students to create mock trials or debates that would engage the entire class. Both the questions and the activities are formatted so that they might be used directly by students, although you may rewrite them as you feel necessary.

Essential Principles

Questions

Why is the rule of law essential to democracy? What aspect of the rule of law as defined by Rachel Kleinfeld Belton in the Essential Principles section is the most important in your view?

Should the rule of law be defined by its ends or its means? Explain your answer with historical examples.

Activity

Identify examples of democracies where the rule of law has broken down. Identify dictatorships where the rule of law has been used to promote democratic change. Identify similarities and differences in each of these two broad categories of countries. What do the differences and similarities tell you about the concept of rule of law?

Germany

Question

Why did the reunified Germany keep West Germany's Basic Law as its constitution rather than adopting a new common constitution?

Activity

The Weimar Republic was the first democratic regime of unified Germany, but it is known in history as a failed state that created the conditions for Hitler's seizure of power. Study it further. What characteristics of the rule of law existed in the Weimar Republic? Did the Treaty of Versailles doom the Weimar Republic, or did its constitution enable the Nazis' rise to power?

Singapore

Question

Singapore is known for having a low crime rate, a high per capita execution rate, and severe penalties for nearly every crime. Is there a connection between these traits? What in the theory of the rule of law would argue against the connection between a law-and-order society and a low crime rate?

Activity

Lee Kuan Yew has argued that Asia has special "political values" that are incompatible with democracy. Find one of Yew's speeches defending this position. Debate the strengths and weaknesses of Yew's argument. Is Yew right or wrong? Are there such things as "right" and "wrong" political values? Discuss these questions with your classmates.

Saudi Arabia

Question

What is the relationship between the rule of law and Wahhabism? Who controls the courts in Saudi Arabia?

Activity

Does any aspect of rule of law as defined in the Essential Principles section exist in Saudi Arabia? Assess each of the five principles in relation to Saudi Arabia.