The liberal orientation of rule of law discourse has treated the state as the primary antagonist against rule of law values. However, in much of the world, the provision of law and regulation of private force is plausibly identified as also being a core rule of law value. The protective function of state law, and its rightful place in rule of law discourse, is an important though largely overlooked feature of the rule of law concept. However, does admitting its role put rule of law rhetoric in the service of authoritarian states, by conflating the ‘rule of law’ and ‘law and order'? This paper confronts this challenge by arguing that it does not. What is rather required is a conception of the rule of law that captures the importance of regulation without providing succour to tyrants.