What is the Purpose of Law:
Rousseau Vs. Montesquieu
Laws Protect Freedom
Both Montesquieu and Rousseau believed firmly that fair and just laws—not monarchs or unrestrained mobs—should govern society. Here, Rousseau argues that laws established by and for the people are the hallmark of a free society
I . . . therefore give the name “Republic” to every state that is governed by laws, no matter what the form of its administration may be: for only in such a case does the public interest govern, and the res republica rank as a reality. . . . Laws are, properly speaking, only the conditions of civil association. The people, being subject to the laws, ought to be their author: the conditions of the society ought to be regulated . . . by those who come together to form it.
- JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU, The Social Contract
Laws Ensure Security
While laws work to protect citizens from abusive rulers, Montesquieu argues that they also guard against anarchy and mob rule.
It is true that in democracies the people seem to act as they please; but political liberty does not consist in an unlimited freedom. . . . We must have continually present to our minds the difference between independence and liberty. Liberty is a right of doing whatever the laws permit, and if a citizen could do what they [the laws] forbid he would be no longer possessed of liberty, because all his fellowcitizens would have the same power.
- BARON DE MONTESQUIEU, The Spirit of Laws
1. Why should citizens be the authors of society’s laws, according to Rousseau?
2. Making Inferences Why does Montesquieu believe that disobeying laws leads to a loss of liberty?