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Norse Gift to Society

February 15, 1987

Not only was it chauvinistic of Lee Dembart, but completely untrue to state that: "Society's collective effort over centuries to devise rules under which people can live together more or less harmoniously and with a sense of fair play, reached it highest achievement in the English-speaking world, particularly in America" ("Encyclopedia of the American Constitution," The Book Review, Jan. 25).

While the primitive Magna Charta was being put together, generations of Scandinavian law-making was being codified in highly sophisticated law volumes, Norway's famous "Gulatings Law" being one of them. In 1814, the same country became the second nation in the world to pass a free constitution. And when the president of the United Nations raps for order, he does so with a gavel inscribed with the old Norse saying: "With laws shall lands be built, and not by lawlessness destroyed."

That gavel broke in its pounding match against Nikita Khrushchev's shoe. Iceland promptly replaced it.

TROND WOXEN

Beverly Hills

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