The mortgage debacle in the United States has raised deep questions about 'the rule of law', the universally accepted hallmark of an advanced, civilised society. The rule of law is supposed to protect the weak against the strong, and ensure that everyone is treated fairly. In America, in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis, it has done neither. Part of the rule of law is security of property rights—if you owe money on your house, for example, the bank can't simply take it away without following the prescribed legal process. But in recent weeks and months, Americans have seen several instances in which individuals have been dispossessed of their houses even when they have no debts.