Thomas Aquinas defines “Law is nothing other than a certain ordinance of reason for the common good, promulgated by the person who has the care of the community.” In complex societies institutions have the responsibility to ensure the common good via rational regulations, traditions, and customs. When establishing these laws, Plato cautions that “No law or ordinance is mightier than understanding.” Understanding depends on your ability to empathy, knowledge, wisdom, and agreements. The rule of law, is your ability to integrate the diversity of the community into an empowering environment. This is what distinguishes a dictatorship from a democracy. And yes, both have a wide range of definitions depending on those who rule.
When institutions lose contact with their community, then care is perverted. Using sports as an analogy is a clear understanding of needing to establish rules of play. This sets the way the game is played giving all competitors equal chances. Changing the rules during the game creates an impossible environment, where winning is random. There are rules that become obsolete, new rules necessary because of new circumstances, or changing exiting rules to respond to socio economic changes. Everyone needs to know the rules, before and during the game. This applies equally to all institutions especially government. Institutions such as faith or social organizations are voluntary and you can walk away. Government is not voluntary and thus this institution is a critical part of effective ordinances.
Laws are essential to an orderly society, including the commercial regulations. These conventions are essentially trust among relationships. When laws undermine trust or those responsible for the laws violate them – the fabric of the society begins to deteriorate. Understanding the rational for laws, ensuring they remain current but stable, and inspire trust in their domain is the fundamental structure to avoids chaos. In a society, there is a covenant between the governing and the governed. A covenant is a sacred bond among its principals, greater than a contract or an agreement. Some find subtle ways to violate that which cannot be broken. The prism of a covenant is a rainbow of possibilities. You must be vigilant to ensure this primary (government) covenant is trustful!