Everything which is not forbidden is allowed

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A cartoon in Hugo Gernsback's Electrical Experimenter lampooning proposed regulations to make radio a monopoly of the US Navy

"Everything which is not forbidden is allowed" is a constitutional principle of English law—an essential freedom of the ordinary citizen or subject. The converse principle—"everything which is not allowed is forbidden"—used to apply to public authorities, whose actions were limited to the powers explicitly granted to them by law.[1] The restrictions on local authorities were lifted by the Localism Act 2011 which granted a "general power of competence" to local authorities.[2]

The German constitution Art. 2(1) of the GG protects the general freedom to act (Allgemeine Handlungsfreiheit), as demonstrated e.g. by the judgment of the Bundesverfassungsgericht known as “Reiten im Walde” (BVerfGE 80, 137).[non-primary source needed]

Totalitarian principle[edit]

In the novel The Once and Future King, author T. H. White proposed a similarly worded rule as the rule of totalitarianism: "Everything which is not forbidden is compulsory."[3]

White's saying has been used to state the Gell-Mann's totalitarian principle in physics.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laws, John (2000). "The rule of reason – an international perspective". In Andenas, Mads; Fairgrieve, Duncan (eds.). Judicial Review in International Perspective. 2. Kluwer Law International. p. 256. ISBN 978-90-411-1378-8.
  2. ^ The General Power of Competence (PDF), Local Government Association, London, 2013
  3. ^ T. H. White, The Sword in the Stone (book 1 of The Once and Future King), Collins (1938)
  4. ^ Stephen Weinberg, "Einstein's Mistakes", in Donald Goldsmith and Marcia Bartusiak (eds.), E: His Life, His Thought and His Influence on Our Culture, Sterling Publishing (2006) p. 312.