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Are rules your ally or your enemy?

A major political controversy is whether legitimizing misbehavior by a group helps that group or harms that group. Is it good or bad for a group if they can get away with some bad things? Never mind if it's good or bad for other groups. The question is e.g. if you relax criminal law for blacks, does that help or harm blacks (we're not discussing the effect of that policy on whites). If you relax immigration law for Mexicans, are you helping or harming Mexicans? If you relax parental or school rules in response to misbehavior (rather than because there is anything wrong with those particular rules, just to let people get away with misbehavior), does that help or harm children? If you lower the test score requirements for blacks to get into elite universities, does that help or harm blacks?

(Related: Laing legitimized mental illness, while Szasz did not. Szasz always said many people labelled mentally ill are in fact misbehaving, but that misbehavior is not illness. Of course, some people labelled mentally ill were not misbehaving, and misbehavior is often defined by those with power instead of being defined objectively.)

These questions allow for general answers on principle, instead of case by case answers. The political left answers that, in general, the group is helped. I'm speaking here in general terms. Most actual people are pretty inconsistent, but I'm presenting the strong versions of the principled views which inform a lot of actual thinking by that political group.

The different answers come from different views about what rules are. The left views rules as arbitrarily imposed by authority. The rules lack objective value. Rules are obstacles to action. They get in the way. Contradictorily, the left is also in favor of a larger government that makes more rules, as long as they are in power – they want to be authorities who give orders. The left sees the main purpose of rules as to benefit the ruler – they help the people who give the orders, at the expense of those who take the orders. The left's mental model is ruler and ruled, slaver and slave, so they think it's beneficial to the slaves to be exempted from rules (that is protecting them from power and limited the effect of power on their lives).

The right views (proper) rules as objectively helpful (rules which aren't like this are bad and shouldn't exist). Rules help guide people so people know how to behave better. There certainly exist bad and abusive rules (e.g. slavery), but there also exist good and proper rules (objective rules related to the actual requirements of life). The right does want to eliminate bad rules (e.g. many government rules), while the left basically sees all rules as being in one category (arbitrary) and then accepts them. Knowing how to run one's life is hard and moral rules provide guidance. Obeying moral rules makes a person better off. A rule like "don't murder innocents" doesn't just help others (save them from being murdered), it also helps the person who obeys the rule (saves him from being a murderer – being a murderer is actually bad and self-destructive).

Right wing view: relaxing the rules for college admissions lets in unqualified people. Those rules (admissions requirements) were there for a reason. People who don't obey those rules (get good grades, good test scores, etc.) are not prepared for college (at least not the hardest colleges with the strictest entry requirements). Letting them in, when they aren't qualified, is setting them up to fail.

Left wing view: college benefits people and the rules disproportionately keep out poor people, blacks, latinos, etc., so they are being denied benefits. Letting them in will help them get the benefits of a better education and networking with an elite peer group.

Similarly, the right thinks being a CEO is hard and giving someone the job because they are a black lesbian (rather than because they are actually qualified) is setting them up for failure (as well as hurting all the employees and customers). The left thinks being a CEO is a great privilege (it does indeed have big upsides) and so more blacks, females and lesbians ought to receive that privilege. The left thinks the qualifications for CEO are just rationalizations and excuses for bias, while the right thinks objectively helpful criteria and a person ought to want to meet those qualifications, voluntarily, for his own benefit, before he asks to be CEO. Similarly the left thinks men benefit from nepotism while the right thinks they have worse lives. The left's view encourages people to do nepotism (both give and receive) if they can get away with it, while the right claims that is unwise and self-destructive for those involved.

Overall, I broadly agree with the right. Yes some rules are bad, but it's important to understand and voluntarily follow proper rules. Life needs objective guidance, not arbitrary action. There are, in reality, requirements (aka rules) for accomplishing certain goals, gaining certain values, etc.

Note: Understanding the selfish value of moral rules is necessary to understanding the (classical) liberal idea of the harmony of men's interests, including Ayn Rand's pro-selfish moral philosophy. With the left's view of rules, they can't understand such things because they don't even see, on principle, how basic moral advice like "don't be a robber, even if you wouldn't get caught and punished by the police" could possibly be self-interested and beneficial to the person following the rule. Most right-wing, American Christians would have no problem agreeing with that anti-robbing rule, while most left-wing, American atheists would think clearly you'd benefit (by gaining money from the robbery, while having no downside because you aren't caught). I regard the left as encouraging crime and other misbehavior with such views. The left is basically telling people that robbery is great but you can't do it because the police are mean (implication: if you think you can get away with it, go for it. And also you should hate the police and view them as your enemy). The right views the police as allies who only prevent actions they wouldn't want to do anyway, because they don't want to be robbers and they discourage robbery by telling people why robbing is bad for the robber (rather than only bad for the victim).


Elliot Temple on June 27, 2019

Comments (4)

> Of course, some *some* people labelled mentally ill were not misbehaving, and misbehavior is often defined by those with power instead of being defined objectively.

2 x "some".


N at 11:33 PM on June 29, 2019 | #12934 | reply | quote

#12934 thx, fixed


curi at 11:36 PM on June 29, 2019 | #12935 | reply | quote

>Most right-wing, American Christians would have no problem agree

Should be "agreeing"


Anonymous at 5:37 PM on July 7, 2019 | #12975 | reply | quote

>because they don't want to be robbers and they discourage robbery by tell people

I think you might have meant "by telling people"


Anonymous at 5:39 PM on July 7, 2019 | #12976 | reply | quote

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