Legalism (LEG)

Adhering to the letter but not the spirit of the law...


Legalistic+ Thinking, which claims that the task of the judge is to ascertain the answer to a legal question following an essentially mechanical process, rather than taking the circumstances of the litigants into account.

Design Principles:

  • Be less prescriptive in the what or how, and more descriptive in the why
  • Have fewer, more generalized laws, rather than many specific laws
  • Have consequences redound on the individual for not adhering to the spirit of the law
  • Have formal mechanisms to arbitrate when the letter has been disregarded, in respect for the spirit; and when the spirit has been ignored under the cover of legalism


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  • Respect for law is most important during Key Behavioral Moments+


These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men Isaiah 29:13

The executive exists to make sensible exceptions to general rules. Morison, Elting E. (1968). Men, Machines, and Modern Times


The great Satans of Chinese history, the group of philosophers and administrators known as the Legalists

Further Reading