Rules or Principles

Life eventually devolves to understanding the difference between principles and rules.  While I can appreciate the idea of rules, they simplify things, I am lost when it comes to situations where there are people who think the rule has precedence over the principle, or worse do not know there is a principle.

Rules without the context of principle become arbitrary.  They become subject to interpretation as opposed to clarity.  They become a trap for the unwary.  The recent adventures of the Province of Ontario to create higher fines for distracted driving is a case in point.

I think we could agree that texting while driving can lead nowhere good.  The action is more problematic about having a telephone conversation.  Hands free is okay, hand held is not.  Eye level means you can use the on/off button.  Objective evidence seems to point to the conclusion that neither is safe.

An eye level GPS is different than one beside you.

Can I eat while driving?  Apparently not if I am using both hands and steering with my knees.  Okay but what if I do it a stop light?  No safety issue there.

How about my iPod?  Hands free is okay otherwise not.

The essence with electronic devices is that you cannot take them into your hand while the engine is running.  You must be parked correctly too.

Now, as everyone knows I do not like to nitpick, but the rules seem both over done and underdone at the same time.  What distraction exists when stopped at a traffic light?  Maybe impede traffic flow for the 7 microseconds it will take for the person behind to honk their horn.

What about other unnamed distractions?  What if the driver and their passenger spouse are having a serious argument.  Distracting?  What if a child opens a door, can you turn around?  What if the driver has ADHD?  Are they automatically disqualified from driving?

The rule is after all, distracted driving.

Suppose we made rules that presupposed that the potential miscreant could and would use reasonable judgement.  People need to know and accept the requirements of their society and their culture.  To make them ambiguous or subject to whim is wrong.

“Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.”
Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau died in 1862.  It seems that world has advanced little since then.  If anything, it is worse.

When complexity advances there are more bureaucrats making laws to fix the earlier ones that had flaws and there are advisors who interpret the regulations.  Advisors, rules, bureaucrats all add to vast and expanding social overhead.  The price of being here.

In a business, there is serious effort to keep overheads under control.  There should be the same effort in society.

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


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