Tuesday

Rules, common sense, and following the law

On Monday, my boys came home from the first day of the new school year. They reported that their teachers had all spent a great deal of time going over “The Rules.” They seemed a little put off by all the emphasis on those rules, especially since this wasn’t their first year at the school.

This caused me to reconsider the events over the last couple of years. At the height of the presidential campaign, the business world seemed to come apart at the seams. Major corporations, especially those associated with home loans, were self-destructing. The people who ran those corporations had not followed the rules established for them, or else those who made those rules ignored the basic rule of common sense. Because of that, unimaginable debt was forced upon ordinary Americans - who were not to blame for the crisis - by our government in order to bail out those corporations. It was all driven by greed for the almighty dollar.

More recent cases of this have occurred earlier this year. We have seen a British Petroleum oil rig blow up, killing 11 workers. We found that the company ignored basic safety rules, and we found that government inspectors were complicit in this. That too was driven by greed, and now the Louisiana coast is seriously damaged, marine life is suffering, small businesses along the Gulf Coast are in peril, and thousands of families who depend on that interconnecting system face a very uncertain future.

It happened again with salmonella bacteria introduced into the market place that made at least 2,409 people sick and resulted in a national recall of more than 550 million eggs. Conditions at the farms from where the eggs originated were deplorable, investigators found. All of that was from not following the rules, and greed.

What are we to do about this? Should we quit drilling offshore? Should we quit selling eggs? Should we make more regulations? I don’t believe that is the answer. The first two choices are ludicrous. The third would just give us more rules to ignore. Why don’t we begin by enforcing the laws we already have with substantive penalties that will make businesses think twice about succumbing to greed. Why don’t we decide as a people to think about our neighbors rather than falling to the temptation to make more money than we could possibly use in wise way? And why don’t we hold our government accountable? Once our government interjects itself as a regulatory authority, it assumes a moral obligation. Government these days doesn’t seem to understand the concept of “moral obligation” any more than does private business. Where are the penalties for either private business or government, when both are responsible?

On the local level, we could take this advice to heart as well. Here at the paper we’ve received a couple of letters about animal problems. We need a balance here. I agree with the reader who asked for more regulations regarding animal abuse. I also believe that people need to follow basic common sense and think about what’s good for their animal and for their neighbors. Is it really advantageous for the community to let dog dung pile up in the yard? To let dogs bark insanely? To allow pets to run loose destroying private property? Perhaps some should reconsider owning pets if they don’t have time to care for them. Like all of the cases above, it depends on perspective. Are we completely self-focused or do we also think of others?

As my children will see, and do already see, rules are important. Going over them from time to time does not hurt anyone, especially if the rules are followed and enforced, along with good common sense.