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Policy Shmolicy

Entry 1777, on 2016-03-14 at 22:22:26 (Rating 4, Comments)

Every day I seem to hear a lot about rules. In many situations they seem to have taken the place of commandments from on high. Like some for of bureaucratic proclamations etched into stone by an intransigent dictator. Maybe people just want simple, certain solutions and when religion can't provide them (because religion is becoming increasingly irrelevant) they have to be provided through other means.

But however they originate, hard and fast rules to govern social phenomena are not the best solution. Why should we throw out religious laws as they become less relevant and instead accede to a new set which are potentially just as disconnected from people's true requirements?

I'm not completely against having laws, regulations, and policies. But I am against treating these as absolutes instead of as guidelines. I am confident that I could find a specific situation where any rule can be shown to be irrelevant, so why treat them as if they are set in stone?

So why do we interpret rules so literally? Why do people take breaking laws so seriously? Why is acting against an organisation's policy seen as some sort of inexcusable offence? And why are there more and more rules - which no one can possibly be expected to remember - created every year?

Well since I am writing this blog post you might suspect that I think I have an answer. It's because decision makers are risk averse. They don't want to think for themselves and potentially get things wrong, so they mindlessly follow rules and regulations instead. In addition most decision makers are pretty ignorant about what they are responsible for, so even if they wanted to they probably couldn't make an informed decision.

Is this really a problem? I think so, because rules are often intended to stop the worst situation from happening. Unfortunately by doing that they also stop the best outcomes. It is all part of the mediocritisation (yes, that is a word) of modern society. We are so scared of doing something bad that we can't do anything good either.

I tend to be rather dismissive to all forms of simplistic control: policies, rules, regulations, and laws. I basically do what I think is best based on my own moral standards and hope the consequences aren't too severe. Fortunately my moral code does coincide with the law in most cases (probably because most laws in the broadest sense are basically reasonable).

For example, in almost any imaginable circumstance I would not contemplate murder, theft, etc. But I don't need a law to tell me that. On the other hand, some people do. But they are the same people who would probably ignore the law anyway. So laws are for people (like me) who don't need them, and other people (with lower moral standards) who will just ignore them. What's the point?

I recognise that I have painted a ridiculously simplistic picture above and that there are many cases where people do need guidance on the right way to behave. But notice that I used the word guidance there, not absolute authority.

What right does one person really have to make rules that control the life of someone else? Did I agree to do what a bunch of policy makers in our government told me to, based on what is in the final analysis just their personal moral standards? No, I don't remember doing that.

And the case in favour of allowing myself to be controlled by lesser forms of rules (regulations, policies, etc) is even weaker. I have little respect for the people making the rules and low levels of confidence in the process, so I see no reason why I should feel bound by the outcome.

Of course, if I break the rules and the power elite find out I can expect some repercussions. OK, that might happen and there's not a lot I can do about it. But who's right and who's wrong? Not me. All I can say is "rules shmules" and "policy shmolicy!"

PS I have encountered this way to indicate derision towards something by using the shm- start on the original word before and apparently it is a real thing. It's called "shm-reduplication" and here is some of its description from Wikipedia: "a form of reduplication in which the original word or its first syllable (the base) is repeated with the copy (the reduplicant) beginning with shm- (sometimes schm-). The construction is generally used to indicate irony, derision, skepticism, or disinterest with respect to comments about the discussed object".

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Comment 1 (4481) by Rob on 2016-04-04 at 22:03:12:

Reduplication? Seems more like repudiate. What do you thing of traffic laws that designate the correct side of the road of which a motorist must travel?

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Comment 2 (4482) by OJB on 2016-04-05 at 17:28:34:

Well, as I said above, I'm not totally averse to having rules. I just think there should be flexibility in the rules we have, I think we should have as few rules as possible, I think we should have rules based on what people need, and I think we should have rules which the majority of people would agree with.

Clearly most people would agree that having a particular side of the road to drive on is a sensible rule which avoids a lot of potential accidents. I don't think there would be much debate about that. A lot of other rules aren't quite so clearly advantageous, however.

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