Democracy, Legitimacy and the Rule of Law: Linkages

21 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2000

See all articles by Thomas M. Franck

Thomas M. Franck

New York University School of Law

Date Written: 1999


Democracy, legitimacy and the rule of law are the three essential components of good governance, which, however, results only when all three independent variables are brought together in tandem. None of these elements, by itself, assures good governance. Free and fair elections do not necessarily protect against corruption of the legislative process. Democratic rule by the majority does not invariably protect minorities from oppression. Judicial supremacy has the potential for promoting elitist autocracy as well as for the protection of basic liberties. The three elements' potential for promoting good governance is maximized when all three are deployed concurrently. Concurrent deployment, however, creates its own problems. When a society seeks to combine the benefits of democracy, legitimacy and the rule of law, these elements may be brought together in severe tension, as voters, legislators and judges vie for supremacy. Thus, good governance requires not only that all three elements be deployed concurrently, but that they be balanced. Increasingly, governance is expressed not only through national but also through international forums. As international law and institutions join their national counterparts in governance -- even at some cost to traditional Westphalian notions of state sovereignty -- it becomes important that they, too, be made accountable to emerging global standards of democracy, legitimacy and the rule of law, and that these operate in equilibrium.

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Franck, Thomas M., Democracy, Legitimacy and the Rule of Law: Linkages (1999). NYU Law School, Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper No. 2. Available at SSRN: or

Thomas M. Franck (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States
212-998-6209 (Phone)
212-995-3156 (Fax)

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