“This I do know, that no state is governed successfully by means of laws. If the ruler is wise, he will govern better by a natural sense of justice than by laws. If he is not wise, he will foster nothing but evil through legislation, since he will not know what use to make of the laws nor how to adapt them to the case at hand. Therefore, in civil affairs more stress should be laid on putting good and wise men in office than on making laws; for such men will themselves be the very best of laws, and will judge every variety of case with a lively sense of equity. And if there is knowledge of the divine law combined with natural wisdom, then written laws will be entirely superfluous and harmful. Above all, love needs no laws whatever.”
Martin Luther, in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, LW 36:98
I would argue that Luther's advice is much less wise than the simple dictum of Lord Acton, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The laws are often enough the instruments by which some men and women can reign in the efforts of other men and women to exercise absolute power. Were it not for such laws, the former might not have the skill or the power with which to successful oppose the latter. And, since power corrupts, you cannot rely on the wisdom of a ruler to check his or her own ambition, but must rely on laws, among other things, to create the means of checking him or her.
Finally, there is no guarantee that either a small group or an entire people can with certainty choose a wise ruler. The judgment of individuals, as well as the judgment of the masses, is fallible. Moreover, if they pick one wise ruler in three, they do exceptionally well. Consequently, no state can rely on merely choosing wise rulers to safeguard itself against corrupt rulers, for it will inevitably now and then make a poor choice. So, it must have the means available to check the power and ambitions of its poorer choices too.
At least that's how I see it. What about you?