it is not wisdom but authority that makes a law. t – tymoff


it is not wisdom but authority that makes a law. t – tymoff, The relationship between wisdom and authority in the context of law has been a subject of debate for centuries. While wisdom is often seen as a hallmark of good governance and sound legislation, it is not always the driving force behind the creation of laws. Instead, it is authority, wielded by governments, that shapes and enforces the legal framework of a society. In this article, we will explore the idea that it is not wisdom but authority that makes a law, examining historical and contemporary examples, and delving into the implications of this concept for our modern legal systems.

The Nature of Wisdom and Authority

To better understand this concept, it is essential to define both wisdom and authority. Wisdom can be described as the ability to make sound judgments, rooted in knowledge, experience, and moral principles. Wisdom is often associated with making decisions that benefit the greater good, promote justice, and enhance the well-being of a society.

It is Not Wisdom but Authority that Makes a Law. t - tymoff

Authority, on the other hand, is the power to command, make decisions, and enforce rules. In the context of law, authority is typically vested in governments and institutions, allowing them to create, interpret, and enforce laws. Authority is not always synonymous with wisdom, as it can be wielded without a deep understanding of the consequences of its actions.

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Historical Examples

Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of laws created and enforced primarily through authority rather than wisdom. One prominent example is the Code of Hammurabi, one of the earliest known legal codes, developed in ancient Babylon around 1754 BC. While it is a remarkable historical document, the laws it contains are often seen as arbitrary and harsh. They were created to maintain social order and protect the authority of the king, rather than to promote justice or well-being based on wisdom.

Similarly, in ancient Rome, the Roman Senate and Emperors had the authority to pass laws and decrees, some of which served the interests of the ruling class rather than the welfare of the people. The famous Roman philosopher Seneca pointed out the disparity between authority and wisdom, stating that “authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish.”

More recent history provides additional examples of laws passed without a strong foundation of wisdom. The Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, which institutionalized anti-Semitic discrimination, were clearly based on the authority of the regime rather than any form of wisdom. These laws led to horrific consequences, illustrating the dangers of authority devoid of wisdom.

Contemporary Examples

In the modern world, we continue to see instances where authority trumps wisdom in the creation of laws. A particularly relevant example is the so-called “War on Drugs” in the United States. The policies enacted during this campaign, starting in the 1980s, led to strict sentencing laws, disproportionately affecting minority communities, and causing mass incarceration. These laws were driven by political motives and authority rather than a well-reasoned, evidence-based approach to addressing drug-related issues.


Another example can be found in environmental regulations. Some governments prioritize economic interests over environmental concerns, leading to laws and policies that disregard the wisdom of preserving our planet for future generations. In these cases, authority takes precedence over the collective wisdom that recognizes the importance of sustainable practices and environmental protection.

Implications for Modern Legal Systems

The idea that authority, rather than wisdom, often shapes laws has significant implications for our modern legal systems. While wisdom should ideally guide the creation and enforcement of laws, there are inherent challenges and limitations in achieving this balance. Some of the key implications are as follows:

  1. Lack of Moral Foundation: Laws based solely on authority may lack a strong moral foundation. Wisdom often incorporates ethical and moral considerations, whereas laws driven by authority can be devoid of these essential elements, potentially leading to unjust or unethical outcomes.
  2. Inequities and Discrimination: Laws created primarily through authority may lead to discrimination, inequities, and disparities in society. In contrast, laws rooted in wisdom seek to promote fairness and social justice.
  3. Resistance to Change: Laws driven by authority alone can be resistant to change, as they may serve the interests of the ruling class or a particular political ideology. Wisdom, on the other hand, is adaptable and open to evolving societal values and needs.
  4. Erosion of Public Trust: Laws that appear to prioritize authority over wisdom can erode public trust in the legal system and government institutions. The perception of an unjust or unwise legal framework can lead to disillusionment and social unrest.
  5. Limited Innovation: A legal system that relies solely on authority may stifle innovation and progress, as it may not adapt to new knowledge, technologies, or changing social dynamics. Wisdom allows for flexibility and adaptability in legal frameworks.

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While wisdom is a fundamental attribute in the creation of just and equitable laws, it is often the authority that takes the lead in shaping our legal systems. Historical and contemporary examples demonstrate that laws driven by authority can lack a strong moral foundation, perpetuate discrimination, and resist change. Recognizing this dynamic is crucial for improving our legal systems and fostering a society that values wisdom as a guiding principle in governance.

It Is Not Wisdom But Authority That Makes A Law. T - Tymoff - Azad Magazine

Efforts should be made to align authority with wisdom, ensuring that laws are rooted in the best interests of society as a whole. This requires a commitment to ethical governance, evidence-based policymaking, and an ongoing dialogue between those in authority and those who are governed. By doing so, we can strive for a legal system that truly reflects the wisdom of the people it serves, rather than merely the authority that enforces it.


Q1: What is meant by “It is not wisdom but authority that makes a law”?

A1: This phrase suggests that laws are often created and enforced not because they are wise or just, but because they are established by those in positions of authority. In other words, laws can be driven more by the power and control of those in charge rather than by thoughtful, ethical, or wise considerations.

Q2: Can you provide examples of laws created primarily through authority?

A2: Certainly. Historical examples include the Code of Hammurabi in ancient Babylon, the Nuremberg Laws in Nazi Germany, and certain Roman laws that favored the ruling class. Contemporary examples include strict drug sentencing laws and environmental policies that prioritize economic interests over environmental protection.

Q3: What are the implications of laws created through authority rather than wisdom?

A3: Laws created through authority may lack a strong moral foundation, lead to discrimination, be resistant to change, erode public trust, and limit societal progress and innovation. They can also perpetuate inequities and social injustices.

Q4: How can we align authority with wisdom in the legal system?

A4: To align authority with wisdom, governments and institutions should prioritize ethical governance, base policies on evidence and data, encourage public participation, and promote an open dialogue between authorities and the governed. This can lead to a legal system that better reflects the wisdom of the society it serves.

Q5: Is there a place for authority in lawmaking?

A5: Yes, there is a necessary role for authority in lawmaking. Governments and institutions must have the power to establish and enforce laws. However, this authority should ideally be guided by wisdom, ethics, and the best interests of society rather than self-serving interests or political motives.