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

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it is not wisdom but authority that makes a law. t – tymoff
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So you want to know why laws exist even when they lack wisdom or common sense? You’ve come to the right place. Laws are made by those in power, not necessarily those with insight or good judgment. Rulers, politicians, and lawmakers establish laws and regulations based primarily on what will benefit them and help them maintain control, not what will actually make sense or be helpful for citizens. While some laws aim to promote safety, fairness or social order, many exist simply due to the authority and ambitions of those crafting them. If you’ve ever found yourself frustrated with a ridiculous rule or restriction, you now know why. Laws are made by authority, not wisdom. Read on to explore this topic in more depth and see examples of laws that highlight how authority trumps wisdom every time.

Examining the Quote “It Is Not Wisdom but Authority That Makes a Law”

When we examine this quote by the ancient Greek playwright Euripides, it highlights an important truth about law and authority. Laws are created and enforced by those in power, not necessarily because they are wise or fair.

As citizens, we follow the laws set by legislators and governments largely because we have to, not because we always agree with them. Those in authority make the rules, and we abide by them to avoid punishment or legal consequences. Of course, some laws are well-intentioned and benefit society as a whole. But others may be misguided, biased, or even unjust.

Unfortunately, citizens often have little say in the legislative process. We elect officials to represent us, but we can’t control what laws they choose to propose or support once in office. Special interest groups frequently lobby lawmakers to influence new legislation and regulations in their favor. The end result may favor corporate interests over citizens’ needs.

While we should generally respect authority and follow the law, that doesn’t mean we should accept unfair or unjust laws without question. As citizens, we have the right to speak up, organize, protest, and work to change laws that we believe are misguided or harmful. Grassroots campaigns have led to the repeal or amendment of unwise laws in the past, and they remain an important check on authority today.

Euripides’ insight was that authority alone creates law, not wisdom or fairness. But engaged citizens can help shape laws and policies that benefit society as a whole. Our voices have power, and through civic participation we can work to balance authority with wisdom.

The Role of Authority in Creating Laws

When it comes down to it, laws exist because someone in authority said so, not necessarily because they’re the wisest or most well-thought out. ### The Role of Power

Those in positions of power, whether elected officials, monarchs, or others, create laws to exert control over society and push their own agendas. They rely more on their authority than wisdom. Of course, some laws aim to protect citizens and ensure justice, but many are subjectively made.

Politicians, for example, pass legislation to appeal to their base and get re-elected, not because the laws are prudent or fair. They use their power and influence to shape policy in their favor. Similarly, authoritarian regimes create oppressive laws to dominate citizens and crush dissent, not because it’s morally right.

Enforcing Compliance

Laws also persist because of the mechanisms put in place to enforce them through punishment and coercion. No matter how unjust or ridiculous, people follow laws to avoid legal consequences like fines, arrests or imprisonment. The threat of force ensures compliance, even if the law lacks merit or public support.

Rather than wisdom, it is the raw power and dominance of authority that allows governments to legislate and demand obedience. Of course, some degree of authority is necessary to govern society and enact reasonable laws. But we must remain vigilant so that those in power do not abuse it and remember that not all laws are created equal or for the right reasons. The role of wisdom in lawmaking should not be ignored.

Does Wisdom Play Any Part in Lawmaking?

Has wisdom historically played a role in how laws are made? Not really. Laws are created by those in authority and power, not necessarily by the wisest members of society.

The Role of Authority

Those who are in positions of authority, like politicians, lawmakers and rulers, are typically the ones who determine what becomes law – regardless of their level of wisdom or judgment. They have the power and means to create and pass legislation, so they do. The everyday person, no matter how thoughtful or prudent, does not have the same authority or means to shape laws.

While lawmakers may consider public opinion or consult experts, their authority alone gives them the final say. Laws are enforced based on authority and power, not wisdom. If wisdom were the driving factor, many unjust or foolish laws would not exist. Some laws are created to benefit certain groups, not society as a whole. Others are formed from fear, prejudice or ignorance rather than reason.

The Exceptions

Of course, there are exceptions. Some laws are the result of wisdom – they aim to establish justice, equality and the greater good. Visionary leaders who are able to pass prudent legislation can positively impact society for generations. However, these leaders are unfortunately rare, and still rely on having sufficient authority and power to enact their wise decisions.

Wisdom may guide good lawmaking, but authority drives it. No matter how sagacious or judicious, without authority one cannot make law. While we wish more laws were shaped by wisdom, the reality is authority trumps wisdom every time in how legislation is created and put into effect. The maxim holds true: it is not wisdom but authority that makes a law.

Examples of Laws Made Without Wisdom

As the old saying goes, “it is not wisdom but authority that makes a law.” Throughout history, there are many examples of laws that were put in place by those in power without much thought or consideration of the consequences.


In the 1920s, the US passed the 18th Amendment which banned the manufacture and sale of alcohol. However, this turned out to be an utter failure and led to increased organized crime and violence. The law was repealed just 13 years later with the 21st Amendment. Banning alcohol did little to curb demand and instead created a black market for booze.

War on Drugs

The war on drugs launched in the 1970s set out to eliminate illegal drug use in the US through harsh laws and enforcement. However, the strict policies and long prison sentences for drug offenses did little to reduce addiction rates. They instead exacerbated racial disparities in the justice system and led to overcrowding in prisons. Many experts argue that decriminalization and treatment are better approaches to curb drug abuse.

Three-Fifths Compromise

At the founding of the US, the Three-Fifths Compromise was enacted which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for representation. This compromise gave Southern states disproportionate power and influence over the federal government to protect the institution of slavery. It’s a prime example of how laws can uphold unjust systems when not based on ethical reasoning.

As these examples show, laws made without wisdom often fail to achieve their intended goals and frequently make situations worse. They highlight why it’s so important that policymakers think critically about the root causes of issues, listen to experts, and consider the potential unintended consequences of their decisions before enacting new legislation. When authority alone drives lawmaking, injustice and suffering are sure to follow.

Achieving a Balance of Wisdom and Authority in Lawmaking

Lawmaking is a balancing act between wisdom and authority. Laws need to be well-reasoned and just, but they also need to be enforced. Finding the right balance of these two elements is key to crafting effective legislation.


Laws should be created carefully and thoughtfully. Lawmakers must consider ethics, fairness, and the wellbeing of citizens. They need to analyze the issue at hand, understand the pros and cons of different approaches, and make judgments based on facts and evidence. Creating good laws requires patience, open-mindedness, and a willingness to understand all sides of an issue.


However, laws also need authority and enforcement behind them. Rules without consequences have little effect. Lawmakers must find ways to ensure compliance, whether through penalties, oversight, or other means. They have to craft laws so they can actually be implemented and administered properly. Authority gives laws their power and relevance.

To achieve the right balance, lawmakers should:

  • Spend adequate time researching issues and considering alternative solutions. Don’t rush into passing new laws without understanding the full impact.
  • Consult experts and citizens affected by the issue. Get input from all stakeholders.
  • Consider both short term and long term effects. Think about unintended consequences and plan accordingly.
  • Write laws that are clear, specific and enforceable. Make sure government agencies and officials have the means to implement them properly.
  • Review and evaluate laws to see how they’re working. Be willing to make changes if they’re not achieving the intended goals or if there are unintended negative effects.

Creating good laws is challenging work that requires balancing wisdom and authority. But when done well, the result is legislation that is both prudent and impactful. Lawmakers who can achieve this balance will craft laws that benefit society for generations to come.


So there you have it, laws are really just the rules that those in power decide should govern our behavior. While some laws aim to promote fairness, justice, and the greater good of society, many are created and enforced simply due to the authority of lawmakers and politicians. Rather than blindly following every rule handed down to you, question whether each law reflects wisdom and common sense or is the result of flawed human judgment and ulterior motives. You have a mind of your own, so use it to determine which rules are worth following and which are made to be broken. The next time someone tells you that you must obey a law merely because it’s the law, ask yourself whether it’s wisdom or authority that truly makes that rule. You might just find that it’s the latter.

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