Why Rules Work

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This is another post related to my observations at the Pearl Jam concert. This is about how rules work.

We lined up in front of the venue and soon after someone from security told us we needed to go to the front of the line and get a number before we we could go in. When I went up to get my number, the guy at the beginning of the line was holding a notebook and said we are “supposed to sign” and write our number on our hand with a marker.

As I was walking back to my spot in line, I realized that the notebook and marker was not very professional. When considering it further I concluded that the logistics of regulating that process were impossible. The number was supposed to allow you to get in front of other people in the line and in the pit. There was no way they could have checked all the people and made sure they did not write a lower number.

This is how rules are made and kept. Enough people that go along with the rule that the people who enforce it are not overwhelmed by the people who are not abiding by the rule.

In the concert situation I could have told them “no” and there would be little they could do to me. Though, if everybody went along with the rule the security people would have to help enforce it because the large group would possibly cause a commotion.

It is this way with every rule or law. They only work because enough people are willing to go along with it, or we are convinced that enough people are willing to go along with it. Also, a rule cannot be enforced if the number of people disobeying it are great enough to overwhelm the resources of the people responsible for enforcement.