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It Is Not Wisdom But Authority That Makes A Law – Understanding Tymoff’s Perspective




The quote “It is not wisdom but authority that makes a law” by Tymoff succinctly encapsulates a critical observation about the nature of legal systems and governance. This statement emphasizes that the creation and enforcement of laws are more a function of the power wielded by governing bodies than the inherent wisdom or moral correctness of the laws themselves. To fully appreciate and critically analyze this perspective, it is essential to delve into the interplay between authority, wisdom, law, and the implications for society.

The Nature of Authority in Lawmaking

Authority, in the context of lawmaking, refers to the sanctioned power held by individuals or institutions to create, implement, and enforce laws. This authority is often derived from various sources, including constitutions, legislative mandates, or social contracts. The legitimacy of this authority comes from its acceptance by the populace and the ability to maintain order and compliance within a society.

Historically, the legitimacy of authority has varied greatly. Monarchs claimed divine right, emperors ruled by conquest, and modern democratic leaders derive their authority from elections and constitutions. Regardless of its source, authority possesses the unilateral power to decide what is legal or illegal, just or unjust, without necessarily relying on wisdom or ethical considerations.

Wisdom Versus Authority

Wisdom, on the other hand, is the ability to make sound judgments based on knowledge, experience, and ethical considerations. It involves a deep understanding of human nature, society, and the potential consequences of actions. While wisdom can guide decisions and shape fair and effective laws, it does not inherently possess the power to enforce them. This is where authority steps in, bridging the gap between insightful, just ideas and their practical implementation.

The separation between wisdom and authority becomes evident when considering laws that may be enforced without moral justification or logical reasoning. For instance, authoritarian regimes often impose laws that serve to consolidate power or suppress dissent rather than promote the well-being of their citizens. These laws may lack wisdom but are backed by the sheer force of authority, illustrating Tymoff’s assertion.

The Role of Wisdom in Lawmaking

While authority is fundamental to the establishment of laws, wisdom should ideally guide the exercise of that authority. Wise lawmaking involves considering the long-term impacts of legislation, ensuring justice, and promoting the common good. However, wisdom in lawmaking is not always a given. Legislators may lack the necessary knowledge, be influenced by personal biases, or be swayed by special interest groups, leading to laws that are neither fair nor effective.

The influence of wisdom in lawmaking can be seen in democratic systems where public discourse, expert opinions, and ethical considerations play a significant role in shaping laws. However, even in democracies, the tension between authority and wisdom persists. Elected officials may pass laws based on political expediency or popular opinion rather than sound judgment.

The Implications for Society

The distinction between authority and wisdom in lawmaking has profound implications for society. Laws that are made solely based on authority without the guidance of wisdom can lead to unjust outcomes and societal unrest. Conversely, laws grounded in wisdom but lacking authoritative enforcement may be ineffective.

One clear implication is the potential for abuse of power. When authority operates unchecked by wisdom, it can result in the creation of oppressive laws that infringe on individual rights and freedoms. History is replete with examples of such abuses, from draconian laws in totalitarian regimes to racially discriminatory laws in democratic societies.

Furthermore, the lack of wisdom in lawmaking can undermine public trust in legal institutions. When people perceive laws as arbitrary or unjust, they are less likely to comply willingly, leading to a breakdown in the social contract and increased instances of civil disobedience or unrest.

Striving for a Balance

To mitigate the risks associated with the divergence between authority and wisdom, it is crucial to strive for a balance where laws are made and enforced through a blend of both. This balance can be achieved through several mechanisms:

  1. Institutional Checks and Balances: Ensuring that no single branch of government holds unchecked power can help prevent the abuse of authority. Judicial review, legislative oversight, and executive accountability are essential components of a balanced system.
  2. Public Participation: Engaging citizens in the lawmaking process through public consultations, referenda, and open debates can infuse wisdom into legislation. Public input ensures that diverse perspectives are considered, and the resultant laws are more reflective of societal values.
  3. Expert Involvement: Incorporating insights from experts in various fields, such as economics, sociology, and ethics, can enhance the wisdom behind laws. Expert committees and advisory panels can provide the necessary knowledge to inform legislative decisions.
  4. Education and Awareness: Educating both lawmakers and the public about the importance of wise lawmaking can foster a culture where authority is exercised responsibly. Awareness campaigns can highlight the long-term benefits of just and effective laws.
  5. Ethical Standards: Upholding high ethical standards within legislative bodies can ensure that those in positions of authority prioritize the common good over personal or political gains. Codes of conduct and integrity pledges can help maintain these standards.


Tymoff’s assertion that “it is not wisdom but authority that makes a law” serves as a poignant reminder of the power dynamics inherent in lawmaking. While authority is essential for the creation and enforcement of laws, wisdom is indispensable for ensuring that these laws are just, fair, and beneficial to society. Striking a balance between authority and wisdom is a continuous challenge but one that is vital for the health and prosperity of any society. By recognizing the distinction and striving for this balance, societies can create legal systems that not only command compliance but also earn respect and legitimacy.

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