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 insightful statement, “Laws are made not by wisdom but by authority. – Tymoff,” prompts us to reconsider how we perceive the origins of laws. This blog post dives deep, exploring the implications of this statement and examining the intricate relationship between authority, wisdom, and the process of lawmaking.


Laws are the foundation of any society, the invisible framework that shapes our interactions and guides our behavior. But where do these laws originate? Are they products of profound societal wisdom, carefully crafted to ensure the well-being of all? Or are they simply dictates imposed by those in power, a reflection of authority rather than reason? Philosopher Tymoff throws a wrench into our traditional thinking with his thought-provoking statement: “It is not wisdom but authority that makes a law.

Tymoff’s Viewpoint

Tymoff’s perspective challenges the idealistic view that laws are the culmination of deep thought and a thorough understanding of what constitutes a “good” society. He argues that the primary driver behind the creation of laws is not necessarily some profound societal wisdom, but rather the authority wielded by those in power. Legislatures, monarchs, or any governing body with the power to enact and enforce rules hold the key to shaping the legal landscape. This perspective forces us to confront the uncomfortable truth that laws might not always be the product of enlightened reason, but rather the consequence of power dynamics within a society.

Wisdom as the Guiding Light for Law

Tymoff’s assertion challenges a more idealized view of lawmaking. Traditionally, we envision laws as the product of careful deliberation, informed by the collective wisdom of society. Public discourse, expert opinions, and historical knowledge are all seen as crucial ingredients in crafting just and effective laws. Imagine a community debating a new traffic regulation, considering factors like safety, traffic flow, and environmental impact. Through this process, a law might emerge that reflects the collective wisdom of the community, aiming for the greater good.

This idealized view of lawmaking emphasizes the role of reason, logic, and a deep understanding of the societal context in shaping legal codes. Laws, in this perspective, are not arbitrary pronouncements but tools meticulously crafted to promote order, fairness, and the well-being of the people they govern.

The Role of Wisdom

While Tymoff emphasizes the role of authority, it would be an oversimplification to say that wisdom plays no part in lawmaking. Even under a system where authority dictates the law, there are still avenues for incorporating elements of wisdom. Public discourse, expert analysis, and consideration of societal needs can all influence the lawmaking process, even if the final decision rests with those in power. Public hearings, for instance, allow citizens to voice their concerns and offer alternative perspectives that can inform the content of a law. Similarly, expert advice from legal scholars, economists, or social scientists can provide valuable insights that can help shape a law that is both effective and fair.

 Authority and Wisdom Working Together

In an ideal scenario, authority and wisdom work hand-in-hand. Laws are established by those in power who take into account the best interests of the people they govern. This necessitates a system that allows for the incorporation of public input, expert advice, and a thoughtful consideration of the potential consequences of a law. When authority acts arbitrarily, without considering the wisdom of the collective, the result can be a legal system that is oppressive and ultimately unsustainable.

Safeguards Against Tyranny

Fortunately, many modern legal systems incorporate checks and balances that mitigate the potential for the arbitrary exercise of authority. These safeguards can take various forms, such as a robust judicial review system where courts can strike down laws deemed to be unconstitutional. Additionally, a system with a separation of powers, where the legislative branch writes the laws, the executive branch enforces them, and the judicial branch interprets them, can help prevent any one branch from wielding absolute power.

When Might Makes Wrong

History provides us with numerous examples of laws that were enacted by authority figures but lacked any basis in wisdom. These laws often had devastating consequences. Jim Crow laws in the American South, for instance, were legitimate in the sense that they were passed by state legislatures and enforced by the authorities. However, these laws were demonstrably unjust, enforcing racial segregation and denying basic rights to African Americans.  Similarly, the Nazi regime in Germany enacted a series of laws that were unquestionably legal, yet utterly barbaric, leading to the systematic persecution and extermination of millions of people.  These historical examples starkly illustrate the dangers of a legal system based solely on authority, devoid of any moral compass or consideration for justice.

Modern Lawmaking

Modern lawmaking processes are often complex and multifaceted, attempting to strike a balance between the authority of the legislature and the need to incorporate public input and expert advice. Public hearings, as mentioned earlier, offer a platform for citizens to voice their concerns and suggest alternative approaches. Lobbying groups representing various interests can also play a role in shaping legislation. Additionally, legislative committees often hold hearings where experts from various fields can provide their insights on the potential impact of a proposed law.

The Role of International Law

The concept of authority in lawmaking extends beyond national borders. International law creates a framework for cooperation and conflict resolution between nations. Here, authority is often vested in international organizations like the United Nations or regional bodies like the European Union. These entities establish legal codes that govern issues like trade, human rights, and environmental protection.

However, the question of wisdom remains relevant in the international arena as well. The effectiveness of international law hinges on the willingness of member states to abide by its principles. Additionally, the process of creating international law can be complex and time-consuming, requiring negotiation and compromise between nations with diverse interests.

Authority vs. Wisdom

Tymoff’s quote, “It is not wisdom but authority that makes a law,” serves as a springboard for an ongoing debate about the source and legitimacy of laws. While authority undoubtedly plays a central role in lawmaking, the ideal scenario is one where this authority is tempered by wisdom. Public participation, expert advice, and a commitment to justice are all crucial elements in ensuring that laws are not simply dictated from on high, but rather carefully crafted tools for promoting a just and equitable society.

Authority, Wisdom, and the Future of Law

The relationship between authority and wisdom in lawmaking is a complex and ever-evolving issue. While Tymoff’s quote highlights the potential dangers of unchecked power, it also underscores the importance of a strong legal framework. The ideal legal system likely lies in a delicate balance between these two forces. Authority provides the structure and enforcement mechanisms, while wisdom guides the creation of just and effective laws.

Public participation, the Rule of Law, and mechanisms like legal precedent all play crucial roles in ensuring that laws reflect the collective wisdom of society. As societies evolve and face new challenges, the conversation about how to best incorporate wisdom into the lawmaking process will undoubtedly continue.

This blog post has only scratched the surface of this intricate topic. We encourage you to explore further and share your thoughts on the ever-important relationship between authority, wisdom, and the laws that govern our lives.

The Role of Wisdom in Lawmaking

While authority may hold the reins of power in lawmaking, wisdom serves as a guiding light, illuminating the path toward just and equitable legal systems. Wisdom empowers legislators and policymakers to navigate complex moral and ethical dilemmas, consider diverse perspectives, and craft laws that reflect the values and aspirations of society as a whole.

Authority and Wisdom in Different Legal Systems

The relationship between authority and wisdom can also vary across different legal systems around the world. Common law systems, like those found in the United States and the United Kingdom, place a strong emphasis on legal precedent. Judicial decisions from the past guide future rulings, fostering a sense of consistency and predictability. In contrast, civil law systems, prevalent in many European countries, rely more heavily on codified statutes enacted by legislatures.

Each system has its strengths and weaknesses. Common law systems can be more flexible and adaptable, but they can also be less predictable. Civil law systems offer greater clarity and certainty, but they can be less responsive to changing social circumstances. Ultimately, the “best” system depends on the specific context and values of a given society.

The Importance of a Critical Lens

The quote also encourages us to approach laws with a critical lens.  Just because a law is on the books doesn’t necessarily mean it is just or fair.  We must constantly question the rationale behind laws, consider their potential impact, and advocate for change when necessary.  A healthy democracy requires an engaged citizenry that is willing to challenge the status quo and work towards a legal system that reflects the best of our collective wisdom.

The Evolving Nature of Law

Law is not a static entity. It is a constantly evolving body of rules that adapts to changing societal needs and values.  As societies progress, new challenges emerge, and the law must adapt to address them. This ongoing process of legal change highlights the importance of striking a balance between the authority of established institutions and the need for innovation and adaptation.


The question of where laws come from and how they are shaped is a complex one. Tymoff’s provocative statement reminds us that authority plays a central role, but it is not the sole factor at play.  The ideal legal system finds a way to harness the power of authority while also incorporating the wisdom, experience, and diverse perspectives of the people it serves. The quest for a just and equitable legal system is a continuous journey, one that requires ongoing vigilance, critical thinking, and a commitment to democratic principles.

Read also: a true relationship is two imperfect people refusi – tymoff

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