The phrase “the rule of law” has never rung right to me. It sounds onerous and oppressive. Yet its meaning is exactly the opposite. It represents the principle that no one should be above the law — not governments, not corporations, not the rich, not anyone — and that the system of laws is fair, transparent and upheld through an impartial and independent judiciary.

For countries in which the rule of law is strong, the impact is tangible. This fact is visually portrayed through an interactive tool launched this week by LexisNexis, the Rule of Law Impact Tracker, part of a broader initiative by LexisNexis to promote the rule of law worldwide.

The Tracker uses data from the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index, which measures data on how the rule of law is experienced by the general public in 102 countries around the globe. In fact, anyone wanting to get the full picture of this data is advised to look at both the LexisNexis and World Justice Project sites in tandem, because the latter allows you to get more granular and even download the data to analyze yourself.

What makes the Tracker interesting is its visual depiction of the correlation between the rule of law and five indicators of economic and social development. It shows that the stronger the rule of law is in a country:

  • The higher is the GDP per capita.
  • The lower is the rate of child mortality.
  • The lower is the homicide rate.
  • The less corruption there is.
  • The higher is life expectancy.

The point: To demonstrate that strengthening a country’s rule of law will lead to dramatic economic and social improvements. Among the site’s interactive tools is a slider that shows the degrees of improvements in these factors based on the percentage increase in the strength of the rule of law.

So a 20 percent increase in the rule of law, for example, would increase a nation’s GDP by $16,644, decrease its homicide rate by two per 100,000 population, decrease child mortality rates by 14.1 per 1,000, and add 5.2 years to average life expectancy.

The site includes a call to action, encouraging companies to support the Business for the Rule of Law (B4ROL) initiative, which was launched by the United Nations Global Compact last year, and to follow the B4ROL Framework, which provides guidance for businesses on how they can support the rule of law.

The country with the strongest rule of law, by the way, is Denmark. At the bottom of index is Venezuela. The U.S. ranks 19th.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.