Monday, June 13, 2011

Unenforced rules

When I was in junior high school, the lunchline had a no-cutting rule. But this rule was routinely flouted, and friends would often let their friends cut in line.  The problem got so bad that those of us who obeyed the rule would often have trouble finishing lunch in time.
I realized something general about the situation, and I think it is a little bit of wisdom: unenforced rules are a punishment on people who obey rules. If you create a rule but don't enforce it, you are attacking those who are inclined to be on your side, and helping those who will get away with whatever they can.  If this goes on too long, people will start to switch camps. Far better not to have a rule at all, if you are unable to enforce it consistently.

3 comments:

Rebecca Holt Stay said...

Rules just aren't worth it.
"Teach correct principles and let them govern themselves."
But that only works for people ABLE and willing to govern themselves.

Mike Halcrow said...

If you haven't read Schneier's book Liars and Outliars, I think you'd find his discussion on doves and hawks relevant.

Gandalf Parker said...

I have often fought the battle of "you wont really stop anything". Nothing ever stops anything. No rule, no law, no punishment, no ToS or AUP. My response has come to be...
If it was my job to stop it then that would really get me down. But I consider my job to make it as hard as possible, for as many as possible, for as long as possible. I consider that to be more worthy than saying "ok go ahead and do it".

Otherwise, you could say the same thing about any law. Or any lock.
By the way, your school story of lunchlines would apply to highway driving now wouldnt it? :)