On a website collecting aphorisms, we find:

In Deutschland ist alles verboten, was nicht erlaubt ist;
in England ist alles erlaubt, was nicht verboten ist;
in Rußland ist alles erlaubt, was verboten ist.

Rudolf von Jhering –– (1818–1892), deutscher Rechtswissenschaftler, erster Vertreter eines juristischen Naturalismus, der das Recht kausalgesetzlich aus der Wirklichkeit der Gesellschaft erklärt


In Germany everything that is not allowed is forbidden;
in England everything is allowed that is not forbidden;
in Russia everything is allowed that is forbidden.

This is a popular saying, quoted here

and it has its variants:

In Germany everything that is not allowed is forbidden.
In England everything is allowed that is not forbidden.
In France everything is allowed, even if it is forbidden.
and in Russia everything is forbidden, even if it is allowed.

More generally:

In democracies everything non-prohibited is allowed.
In an authoritarian regime, everything that is not allowed is prohibited.
And in totalitarian regimes, everything that is not prohibited is compulsory. (src, compare)


In Austria everything is allowed, whether it is forbidden or not.

“In England everything that isn’t forbidden is allowed:
in France everything that isn’t allowed is forbidden.”

The jocular saying is that,
in England, "everything which is not forbidden is allowed",
while, in Germany, the opposite applies, so "everything which is not allowed is forbidden".
This may be extended to France – "everything is allowed even if it is forbidden" –
and Russia where "everything is forbidden, even that which is expressly allowed".
While in North Korea it is said that "everything that is not forbidden is compulsory" (Wikipedia)


In France everything that is not forbidden is allowed.
In Germany everything that is not allowed is automatically forbidden.
In Italy everything is allowed, even if expressly forbidden.
If something's illegal in Australia, you do it to find out why. (src)

This is obviously a joke with some flexibility in attributing absurdities in comparing other countries law systems.

The first source attributes this to prominent lawyer Jhering, but it is also recorded as a bon mot among law students in Germany. As Aphorismen doesn't give a proper source, and single elements may be found earlier, I wonder whether the source attribution is really truthful.

Did Jhering say or write that? Was he the first to use this chiastic construction of principles to compare general attitudes towards laws in different countries?

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  • what sources do you allow for an answer? there are not going to be one-liner laws to that effect. And would an answer to the extended version (taking care of the obvious allowed/forbidden conundrum in the russian case which owes to it's nature as an aphorism) : 'germany - everything not allowed can get you punished; england - nothing not forbidden can get you punished; russia - even the allowed things can get you punished' also fit the bill?
    – bukwyrm
    Jun 7, 2019 at 5:04
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    Given the illogicality of the third statement it seems pretty likely that the aphorisms are not meant to be taken literally. Jun 7, 2019 at 14:04
  • @DJClayworth Yes. This is absolutely not about the truthfulness of the content, which is unrealistic in every statement, for all countries/legal systems. The first 2 are observations about tendencies towards certainly poles in any legal system extrapolated into hyperbole, while both features are still found in both systems. The patently illogic 3rd should make that visible for 1+2. This subversion is genius & should as solo explanation answer the other post in full. It doesn't because of local rules. But here it's only about source attribution. Jun 15, 2019 at 9:15

1 Answer 1


No, in the 26 April 1832 Die Zeit, in some kind of discussion of a German constitution that I don't fully understand, the following is put in quotation marks as a pre-existing concept:

"Alles ist verboten was nicht erlaubt ist"

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    That's not even the first example of the general notion for this general concept, but a nice example of how absurd this "everything" part is (p190). However, my question included "In Germany" (or really any other state) and in conjunction with contrasting one state with another. Your find illustrates that Bavaria's attempt do legislate censorship (at least, perhaps broader application?) in this way does rub a claimed Englishman Littleton the wrong way? Jun 7, 2019 at 12:58
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    @LangLangC it was contrasted with Amerika by 1849. "Bei uns ist alles verboten, was nicht erlaubt, in Amerika alles erlaubt, was durch die Gesetze nicht verboten ist" books.google.com/…
    – DavePhD
    Jun 7, 2019 at 13:06
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    To people who don't know German: the linked page is a letter to the editor by an Englishman named Littleton, where he points out the absurdity of the justification that the Bavarian government listed for a new regulation that outlawed some (or all?) political clubs. The foremost of those justifications? "Everything that's not allowed is forbidden." As Littleton argues, apparently they couldn't think of a better justification. Jun 7, 2019 at 13:06
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    Somewhat tangential, but it strikes me as odd that a German-speaking Englishman aiming to influence a very touchy subject in Bavarian politics would offer his real last name to the press but not his first. I wonder if the letter was actually written by a German liberal-nationalist who used a pseudonym referencing Edward Littleton, a famous reformist politician of the period.
    – Avery
    Jun 7, 2019 at 15:19
  • @Avery Indeed. That's why I wrote "claimed". But I totally missed the reference, if it was one. Which Littleton did you think of, John or Richard? 2nd Baron Hatherton is explicitely sorted under liberal? Jun 7, 2019 at 16:22

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