Gustav Radbruch Quotes
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Because a judgement on the truth or error of the differing convictions in law is impossible, and because on the other hand a uniform law for all citizens is necessary, the law-giver faces the task of cleaving with a stroke of the sword the Gordian knot which jurisprudence cannot untangle. Since it is impossible to ascertain what is just, it must be decided what is lawful. In lieu of an act of truth (which is impossible) an act of authority is required. Relativism leads to positivism.
To be sure, one value comes with every positive-law statute without reference to its content: Any statute is always better than no statute at all, since it at least creates legal certainty. But legal certainty is not the only value that law must effectuate, nor is it the decisive value. Alongside legal certainty, there are two other values: purposiveness and justice. In ranking these values, we assign to last place the purposiveness of the law in serving the public benefit.
This view of a law and of its validity (we call it the positivistic theory) has rendered jurists and the people alike defenceless against arbitrary, cruel, or criminal laws, however extreme they might be. In the end, the positivistic theory equates law with power; there is law only where there is power.
Positivism, with its principle that 'a law is a law', has in fact rendered the German legal profession defenceless against statutes that are arbitrary and criminal. Positivism is, moreover, in and of itself wholly incapable of establishing the validity of statutes. It claims to have proved the validity of a statute simply by showing that the statute had sufficient power behind it to prevail. But while power may indeed serve as a basis for the 'must' of compulsion, it never serves as a basis for the 'ought' of obligation or for legal validity. Obligation and legal validity must be based, rather, on a value inherent in the statute.