The rules defining individuals protected domain must solve certain problems that are inherent in a modern society. Besides the division of knowledge, there is the tendency for people to favor their own interests, and also the problem of power, or enforcement abuse. The latter refers to problems inherent in allowing a monopoly on coercionin other words, the erroneous or improper use of force. The rule of law is the most effective way yet discovered to deal with all of these issues.  A proper conception of this ideal leads to a process for delimiting private property and enforcing contracts, which allows individual knowledge to be used effectively and for disparate aims to be reconciled. In particular, the process consistent with this is an evolutionary growth of law guided by general principles, hence the emphasis on adjudication by courts.
Lieutenant Commander Allan D. Brown first proposed the idea for an essay contest sponsored by the . Naval Institute for "a paper which shall be deemed the best" on 9 May 1878 at the organization's meeting in Annapolis. The first contest was in 1879. The name of the contest was changed in 1985 to the Arleigh Burke Essay Contest in honor of the World War II hero, former Chief of Naval Operations, and President of the Naval Institute. The name reverted to the General Prize in 2008. Today, the prizes honor the first, second, and third best articles published in Proceedings over the previous year, from October through September of the succeeding year.