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It Is Not Wisdom But Authority That Makes A Law. T – Tymoff


It Is Not Wisdom But Authority That Makes A Law. T – Tymoff said “It is not wisdom but authority that makes a law” he was pointing out a basic human truth. Laws are often made not by the collective wisdom of a community but by the authority figures who have the power to make and enforce them. This has huge implications for how laws are created, interpreted and enforced. In this post we will look at this through the PAS (Problem-Agitation-Solution) framework using facts and case studies to get to the bottom of the authority-law relationship.

Problem: It Is Not Wisdom But Authority That Makes A Law. T – Tymoff

At the core of Tymoff’s statement is a big problem: the gap between wisdom and authority in the law making process. Ideally laws should reflect the collective wisdom of society, justice, equality and the common good. But in reality it’s often the opposite. Authority figures who may or may not have the wisdom to do so have the power to shape laws according to their interests, ideologies and agendas. This misalignment can produce laws that are unjust, oppressive or ineffective.

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The Case of the Patriot Act

A prime example of this is the USA Patriot Act passed after 9/11. The law gave law enforcement agencies the power to spy on and detain individuals suspected of terrorism. While the intention was to improve national security, the authority wielded in its making overshadowed the wisdom to balance security with civil liberties.


According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), over 200,000 National Security Letters (NSLs) were issued under the Patriot Act between 2003 and 2006. These NSLs allowed the FBI to demand personal data from organisations without judicial oversight. Subsequent reviews found that many of these NSLs were issued illegally, highlighting the dangers of unchecked authority.

Agitation: It Is Not Wisdom But Authority That Makes A Law. T – Tymoff

The consequences of laws made by authority without wisdom are big and far reaching. When laws put the interests of the powerful above the needs of the people, the societal impact is severe.

Civil Liberties at Risk

The Patriot Act for example led to a huge amount of anxiety about privacy and civil liberties. Innocent people found themselves under invasive surveillance and unjust detention, and government institutions lost the public’s trust. Losing trust isn’t just a theory, it has real world consequences for society and governance.

Economic Inequality

Another area where it’s visible is in economic legislation. Tax laws in many countries are written by those in power and often benefit the rich at the expense of the people. For example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 in the US reduced the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the top 1% got an average tax cut of $51,000 and the bottom 60% got an average tax cut of $353. This shows how authorities can create laws that increase economic inequality.

Social Injustice

Social policies made by authority without wisdom can lead to systemic injustices. Take the “War on Drugs” policies in the U.S. in the late 20th century. These policies targeted minority communities and led to mass incarceration and long-term socioeconomic disadvantage for those affected. According to the NAACP, African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of white Americans despite similar drug use rates across racial groups. This shows the impact of laws made by authorities without the wisdom of equity and justice.

Solution: It Is Not Wisdom But Authority That Makes A Law. T – Tymoff

Solving the problem requires a multi-faceted approach where authority is aligned with wisdom in the legislative process. This means those in power are accountable, informed and guided by justice and equity.

Democratic Engagement

Increasing democratic engagement is key. When citizens are involved in the legislative process they can ensure laws reflect the collective wisdom of society. This can be done through mechanisms like public consultations, referendums and participatory budgeting. For example, the Participatory Budgeting Project in New York City allows residents to decide how to allocate a portion of the city’s budget, a more direct and democratic form of governance.

Checks and Balances

Increasing checks and balances within government systems is also important. Independent judicial reviews, transparent legislative processes and robust oversight mechanisms can prevent abuse of authority. The role of the judiciary in striking down unconstitutional laws is a key safeguard. For example in 2020 the US Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to employees being discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity, shows the importance of judicial oversight in having just laws.

Education and Advocacy

Education and advocacy is the bridge between authority and wisdom. By educating people about the impact of legislation and advocating for evidence based policy, civil society can influence the policy process. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) for example has been advocating for environmental policy based on science and data, helping to shape laws that are effective and fair.

Case Study: The Affordable Care Act

A good example of aligning authority with wisdom is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the US. The ACA aims to increase healthcare coverage and affordability. Despite much opposition, the law was based on a lot of research and analysis of healthcare needs and systems. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the uninsured rate among non-elderly Americans dropped from 18.2% in 2010 to 10.9% in 2019.

International Perspectives

Other countries offer examples. In Finland, for example, laws are often made through a collaborative process involving government officials, experts and citizens. This ensures that legislation is informed and reflects the collective wisdom of society. Finland’s education system which is one of the best in the world, is a result of this inclusive legislative process.


It Is Not Wisdom But Authority That Makes A Law. T – Tymoff statement “it is not wisdom but authority that makes a law” highlights the problem in our legal systems. Authority is necessary to make and enforce laws but must be balanced with wisdom so that laws are just, fair and effective. By promoting democratic engagement, strengthening checks and balances, and education and advocacy, we can bridge the gap between authority and wisdom in law making.

The journey to align authority with wisdom is ongoing and requires the effort of governments, civil society and individuals. By understanding the dynamics and working towards more inclusive and informed legislative processes, we can have laws that truly serve the common good.


  1. What did Tymoff mean by “It is not wisdom but authority that makes a law”?
    • Tymoff’s statement means that laws are often made by those in power (authority) rather than by collective wisdom. This can result in laws that serve the powerful rather than justice and equity.
  2. How can we have laws made with wisdom?
    • Having laws made with wisdom means promoting democratic engagement, strengthening checks and balances and education and advocacy. This ensures that legislation is informed, fair and reflects societal needs.
  3. What are examples of laws made by authorities without wisdom?
    • Examples are the USA Patriot Act, which expanded surveillance powers at the expense of civil liberties, and the “War on Drugs” policies in the US which targeted minority communities and led to systemic injustices.

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