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Of all the dreams that drive men and women into the streets, the "rule of law" is the most curious. We have a pretty good idea of what we mean by "free markets" and "democratic elections." But legality and the "rule of law" are ideals that are opaque even to legal philosophers. Thus, we have reason to puzzle whether political changes in Eastern Europe represent a renewed commitment to the rule of law. What constitutes living under the rule of law after Communism? What would count as achieving "a-state-based-on-law" – to use an expression popular in the last days of Soviet Communism?

Rather than approach these questions theoretically, I want to attempt to answer them with some case studies taken directly from the recent pages of post – Communist Hungarian political life. Considering these examples will give us a foundation to conclude by reflecting on the virtues and vices associated with the rule of law. The three case studies that will engage us will be the taxi strike in the fall of 1990, a complex decision whether to prosecute someone who violated the law in the name of democratic values, and the invalidation of capital punishment by the Hungarian Constitutional Court. What these specific occurrences have to do with the rule of law will become clear as the discussion proceeds.


Law | Rule of Law


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