Are The Bossy Ones Taking Over?

A pedestrian has the right of way and the husband is the head of the house and they are both safe if they don’t try to prove it.  Similarly the customer comes first and the government responds to the needs of the citizens.

Seth Godin published an article recently on the Right of Way  It postulates that some authority structures are gradually taking over the presumed right of way.

His thesis is that right of way exists for a reason.  It is inconvenient for a motorboat to change course, but it is vital that it does in favour of a sailboat.  The sailboat has fewer options and is at risk if it must carry out near impossible maneuvers.  In the same way a glider on final approach has priority over any powered plane.  Even Air Force One would be stacked and wait.

Seth believes that society is changing, or possibly it interest groups are trying to change things.  Should cars have right of way over pedestrians and bicycles.  While they do not legally perhaps, practical bicyclists and pedestrians intuitively believe they do.  Some of the other conflicts he raises are not so easily assimilated.

  • Does government authority override personal preferences?
  • Does corporate interest overrule individuals
  • Should privacy be more sacrosanct

The switch from general power, like pedestrians have the right of way, to specific power, like “this is the bike lane” tend to cause havoc.  People do not know all the rules and some of those rules are obsolete and conflicting with other rules.  Rule based societies tend to work less well than principle based societies.

It is truly a pity that principle based societies tend to be messy.  It even more truly a pity that rule based societies cannot anticipate everything and the rules invariably have unintended consequences.

As is usual, Seth Godin touches on an important issue.  Are we changing in ways that benefit no one?  Except, of course, the powerful and the bossy.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. Contact:  

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