Monday, February 07, 2011

Following the Rules

Do you follow rules?  If no, why not? Because you think you know better? Because you think the rules do not apply to you? Because the gains of doing your own thing are greater than the potential loss if you get caught for breaking the rules? For the thrill of knowing you are breaking the rules?

Why do people follow the rules?  Some people follow the rules because they are the rules.  People understand that the rules are there to protect the vast majority, impose order, and keep social contracts in line.

Some people follow the rules because they are concerned about the consequences if they get caught.  So, if they think that there is an opportunity to break the rules, to their advantage, without getting caught, they are very apt to break the rules.

Some people follow the rules because they are under oversight and know that if they do not follow the rules, they will be caught. But, if they are not under oversight, they may or may not follow the rules, based on what gains they see for themselves.

But the consequences for not following the rules are not always imposed consistently.  If you are a model citizen, and especially if the infraction is slight, you may not suffer consequences. Or the consequences may be slight.

If you have a reputation for breaking the rules, and someone will be suspected, it will be the rule breaker first. And, the rule breaker, with a record, will be scrutinized more closely, and expected to comply more strictly that someone with a good reputation.

I remember a poem from my youth:  "Your future lies before you, Like a shining path of snow, No matter how you tread, Every step will show."

When we are young, the lesson of that poem is frequently lost on us.  But as we grow older and wiser, that lesson comes home to roost more and more often.

It is just simpler to follow the rules.



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