Skip to main content

Burning the rechtsstaat: Legal institutions and protection of the rule of law.

Hartwell, C. A. and Urban, M., 2021. Burning the rechtsstaat: Legal institutions and protection of the rule of law. Journal of Institutional Economics, 17 (1), 105-131.

Full text available as:

20200602 Legal institutions author information FINAL.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.


DOI: 10.1017/S1744137420000302


© Millennium Economics Ltd 2020. The economic literature is clear that transparent and impartial rule of law is crucial for successful economic outcomes. However, how does one guarantee rule of law? This paper uses the idea of 'self-reinforcing' institutions to show how political institutions may derail rule of law if associated judicial institutions are not self-reinforcing. We illustrate this using the contrasting examples of Estonia and Poland to frame the importance of institutional context in determining both rule of law and the path of legal institutions. Although starting tabula rasa for a legal system is difficult, it worked well for rule of law in Estonia in the post-communist transition. Alternately, Poland pursued a much more gradualist strategy of reform of formal legal institutions; this approach meant that justice institutions, slow to shed their legacy and connection with the past, were relatively weak and susceptible to attack from more powerful (political) ones. We conclude that legal institutions can protect the rule of law but only if they are in line with political institutions, using their self-reinforcing nature as a shield from political whims of the day.

Item Type:Article
Group:Bournemouth University Business School
ID Code:34553
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:16 Sep 2020 14:49
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:24


Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...
Repository Staff Only -