Brexit, the Rule of Law, and Hayek's Spontaneous Order

33 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2017

Date Written: January 12, 2017


The Brexit vote surprised and even astonished a large number of people around the world who could not – and cannot – understand why citizens of the United Kingdom would vote to secede from the European Union. If, however, one understands not just the current problems the British citizenry believe the E.U. has caused them, but also understands the historical legal and cultural disconnect between England and the Continent, the Brexit decision is easier to understand. This article explores the spontaneous development of the English concept of the rule of law in context, in contrast to the Civilian rule through law. While the two legal traditions may have a lot in common, their conceptions of the relationship among man, law, and government differ. The Civilian system posits that law is given top-down by a legislature, and that rights given by the government are coupled with duties towards society on the part of citizens. In contrast, common law legal systems predicate that law grows from the bottom-up by way of judicial decision, that governmental and legislative powers are limited, and citizens tacitly consent to a government whose primary function is to protect their liberty.

Keywords: Rule of law, rule through law, rechtsstaat, liberty, spontaneous development, Hayek

Suggested Citation

Nedzel, Nadia Elizabeth, Brexit, the Rule of Law, and Hayek's Spontaneous Order (January 12, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Nadia Elizabeth Nedzel (Contact Author)

Southern University Law Center ( email )

P.O. Box 9294
Baton Rouge, LA 70813
United States

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