"I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge, and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land." Ezekiel 22:30

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rules? You Can't Handle The Rules!

My second blog for The 9s is up today. And yes, for the title I shamelessly ripped-off the famous Jack Nicholson quote.

If you played with other kids growing up, no doubt you engaged in numerous childhood games such as “hide-and-seek”, “red rover”, “tag”, or even baseball or football. Each of these simple games has a set of traditional, straight-forward rules that have been handed down over the years to make the game as fair as possible for everyone.

However, every so often you may have encountered a particular group of friends with some small tweak in the rules that changed the way the game was played. No doubt there were times when the rules were not well understood, which caused confusion and frustration. And of course, there was often a kid who wanted to change the rules or make up his own as the game went along. If that kid didn’t get his way, a temper tantrum usually followed, and sometimes he would take his ball and go home. Those situations never ended well.

As we get older, rules in everyday life become increasingly important because they keep us safe and give us a sense of certainty about how the world works. As adults, we can expect that people will drive on the right side of the road, that the utility company won’t overcharge for service, and that a criminal will get the justice he or she deserves.

In life, just like in baseball, the rules are the rules. They don’t change that much, but if they do, it’s usually with much deliberation, respect for all parties involved, and special consideration for future implications. Rules, in games and in everyday life, are very, very important because they make things as fair as possible for everyone.

So when people start changing the rules to suit their own interests – just like the kid who wants to make up his own game – it makes the game miserable for everyone.

This issue of rules, how important they are, and who gets to make them has been in the news lately after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lastweek pushed through a rule change that eliminated the 60-vote requirement to overturn a filibuster on federal nominations. According to Reid, the change was necessary so that the Senate could get back to legislating instead of bickering across party-lines.

Fair enough. President Obama’s federal nominees have faced an historic level of scrutiny and objection in their nominations. Whether it has all been justified or not is beyond the scope of this blog. But, there is a reason the Senate is known as the deliberative body. As Washington said "we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” The Senate does not – and should not – operate under the rules of pure democracy where the majority gets the say-so at every turn. Our government is a republic, where representatives are elected as a voice for the people and the rights of minorities are heard and respected, even if they don’t ultimately win.

Like it or not, the filibuster is unique to the Senate and a powerful tool for the minority party in the upper chamber. It should not be discarded as an inconvenience. Should there be less partisan fighting? Absolutely! But removing one side’s ability to make its voice heard is not going to help. We can hope that whichever party with control of the Senate after the 2014 mid-term elections does the honorable thing by re-instating this filibuster rule.

Gentlemen, part of being a man and living in organized society is that you have to work with other people. Rules usually make those interactions go more smoothly than they otherwise would, even if we don’t see exactly how or why. Rules are serious and should not be added, removed, or changed in any circumstance without thoughtful, careful, deliberate reflection.

Do you follow rules in your daily life, even if you find them inconvenient or a hassle? If you have rule-making ability in your home or work, do you make rules that are conscientious and just, or do you suit your own interests?

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