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


“It is not wisdom but authority that makes a law,” stated Tymoff, encapsulating a perspective on the legislative process that has been debated for centuries. The idea that the creation and enforcement of laws rely more on authority than wisdom raises fundamental questions about the role of power, justice, and the balance between the rule of law and the rule of those who make and enforce it. In this article, we will explore the concept of authority in lawmaking, its historical context, its implications, and the evolving nature of legal systems around the world.

I. The Role of Authority in Lawmaking

Tymoff’s assertion highlights an essential aspect of lawmaking – that it is not solely a product of collective wisdom but often involves a strong element of authority. In many societies, the authority to create and enforce laws is vested in government institutions, whether they be democratically elected bodies, monarchs, or dictators. This authority is typically derived from a constitution or other legal foundation, and it empowers these institutions to formulate and impose laws upon the populace.

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Authority in lawmaking provides structure and order in society. It helps in maintaining peace, resolving disputes, and upholding the social contract. Without a central authority, chaos could reign, and the rights and safety of individuals might be compromised.

However, the concentration of authority can also be problematic, especially when it is not subject to checks and balances. It raises concerns about potential misuse of power, oppression of minority groups, and the erosion of individual freedoms. Therefore, while authority plays a crucial role in the legislative process, wisdom, fairness, and public interest must also be considered to create just and equitable laws.

II. Historical Context

To understand the relationship between authority and wisdom in lawmaking, it is essential to delve into the historical context. Throughout history, different societies have employed various models for law creation, each influenced by the prevailing political, social, and economic conditions.

  1. Ancient Societies: In ancient civilizations such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece, lawmaking was often intertwined with religious authority, with divine laws or decrees being considered the ultimate source of legal authority. In these early societies, wisdom was closely linked to divine guidance, and authority came from the divine order.
  2. Feudal Systems: In medieval Europe, feudal lords held significant authority in lawmaking. Laws were often arbitrary and subjective, reflecting the interests of the ruling class. Wisdom and fairness played a limited role in shaping these legal systems.
  3. Enlightenment Era: The Age of Enlightenment marked a shift towards more rational and secular lawmaking. Thinkers like John Locke and Montesquieu advocated for the separation of powers, the rule of law, and the protection of individual rights. Wisdom and reason began to take precedence over unchecked authority.
  4. Modern Democracies: In contemporary democracies, authority is derived from the consent of the governed. Elected representatives create laws, and principles like justice, fairness, and the protection of human rights are central to the legislative process. Wisdom is now intertwined with the rule of law.

III. Implications of Authority-Centric Lawmaking

When authority is the primary driver of lawmaking, it can lead to both positive and negative consequences. Let’s explore some of the implications:

  1. Stability and Order: Authority-centric lawmaking can provide stability and order in society, helping to prevent chaos and violence.
  2. Potential for Abuse: Concentrated authority can lead to the abuse of power. Rulers may enact laws that serve their interests, often to the detriment of marginalized groups.
  3. Erosion of Rights: An excessive focus on authority can result in the erosion of individual rights and freedoms, as the rule of law takes a back seat to the rule of those in power.
  4. Stagnation: An overly authoritative system may resist change and innovation, hindering the adaptation of laws to evolving societal needs.
  5. Lack of Accountability: A lack of checks and balances can undermine accountability, as those with authority may act with impunity.

IV. The Evolving Nature of Legal Systems

The dynamics of authority and wisdom in lawmaking have evolved over time, shaped by societal progress and changing political ideologies. Here are some contemporary examples that demonstrate this evolution:

  1. Constitutional Democracies: In many countries, the rule of law is enshrined in a constitution, and authority is derived from the people through elections. Wisdom, in the form of legal expertise and public input, guides the legislative process.
  2. International Law: International organizations like the United Nations play a significant role in shaping international law. This underscores the global nature of lawmaking and the need for collective wisdom in addressing global challenges.
  3. Social Movements: Grassroots movements and civil society organizations increasingly influence lawmaking, emphasizing the importance of public wisdom and advocacy in shaping legal systems.
  4. Human Rights: The development of human rights law places a strong emphasis on principles of justice, fairness, and individual rights, challenging the authority-centric model in many parts of the world.


Tymoff’s statement, “It is not wisdom but authority that makes a law,” serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between authority and wisdom in lawmaking. While authority is essential for maintaining social order, wisdom, fairness, and justice are equally vital for the creation of just and equitable laws. As societies continue to evolve, legal systems must adapt to ensure that authority is wielded responsibly and in the best interest of all citizens. Striking the right balance between authority and wisdom remains an ongoing challenge for lawmakers, policymakers, and advocates of justice around the world.