The preceding discussion, encompassing a wide variety of contemporary and historical experience, rests on a series of underlying propositions. It proceeds, first, on the assumption that the rule-of-law concept is vital to the life and survival of liberal societies. Conceptual analysis, although essential to identification and resolution of critical issues, is insufficient to an understanding of the meanings and dimensions of the legality ideal in a functioning political society. To grasp the operational significance of the concept, we must look to the habitual behavior of public officials wielding the public force and to the levels of fidelity to law displayed in the community. It has also been asserted that the habits of legality practiced in the administration of criminal justice may be significantly weakened in times like the present and recent past, when fear and outrage are engendered by perceptions of rampant criminality. The resulting encroachments on the rights of individuals and disregard of the forms of law will likely not be confined to those situations in which emergencies are thought to arise but instead will extend to the operation of the system as a whole.
It has been argued in these comments, however, that the low vitality of the legality ideal in broad areas of American criminal justice is not alone a product of a passing time of troubles. It is to be explained in large measure by a decentralized and fragmented institutional structure--and per