Have you ever noticed that there are examples in life that confirm that the lawless are rewarded? Ever wonder why that is? Why don’t people get punished for breaking the rules? Why are they rewarded for their disregard for the regulations that the rest of us are expected to follow?
I believe it is for one simple reason – it is because the rulemakers simply don’t have the stomach to hold people accountable. Maybe it is that a certain level of lawlessness is considered acceptable because they know that a given system can accept such a degree of variance without initiating a failure cascade. Perhaps it is that the rules really don’t matter – but I doubt this because there isn’t a system devised by man that is fault tolerant enough to survive mass disobedience.
I start this out by recognizing and admitting that I am a very rules based person. People not queuing properly, people who wait to the last minute to take out their methods of payment in the checkout line, people with more than 12 items in the express lane – those things bother me. The Meyers-Briggs inventory indicates that I am an ISTJ and according to them, “ISTJs tend to believe in laws and traditions, and expect the same from others. They’re not comfortable with breaking laws or going against the rules. If they are able to see a good reason for stepping outside of the established mode of doing things, the ISTJ will support that effort…
I can break the rules, I just need a good reason for doing it…and then I make a new rule.
But enough about my psychological defects…I’m also an observer of people and behaviors. I am amazed at the human machine and the little 3 pound organic computer that runs it. I’ve been flying a lot lately and I have treated to a real life example that our mothers were lying to us when they used the old saying “cheaters, never win” to discourage us from…well…being cheats.
These days, flying in coach is just a faster version of travel on a Greyhound bus and since the airlines have discovered that they can pry more money out of our pockets by charging for checked baggage, people now try to pack the entire contents of their closets into roller bags and backpacks that have the outward appearance of duffle bags packed with a half a dozen live baby kangaroos. Packed in like sardines, passengers engage in the airline version of a triathlon – event one is the duck and cover past the check-in area and through the TSA manned security checkpoint, the second is the sprint to the gate and the third is the human sized version of Tetris as 150 people, all carrying bags of kangaroos, bob and weave their way down the 20 inch aisle while trying stake a claim to a precious few cubic inches of overhead storage before someone shoves their kangaroos in there.
But there are people who have figured out how to avoid this choreographed dance of death. They have figured out that if they check in online, they can avoid the Carry-on Bag Gestapo at the counters – the dour, sour servants of the flying public with the attitude of Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS. “Ve do not break ze rules. Zat bag iss too big. $25 to check, ziss bag! Schnell!”
They know that if they can avoid Ilsa, they can make it to the gate an once at the gate, it is very likely that they will either 1) make it on to the plane or 2) get their bag gate-checked for free because nowadays, “this is a full flight, the overhead bins will be full.”
I arrived in Salt Lake last night and the law-breaking rapscallions on my flight actually had their bags delivered to the baggage carousel…and guess what? Since they were the last bags loaded in the hold, they were the first on the carousel – ahead of all the bags of the people who followed the rules – even those who actually had to pay to have their bags checked!
It wasn’t a huge issue and probably nobody noticed except me – but it was an indication that there are social systems where rule breaking is acceptable when fault tolerance is designed in. These baggage rebels did not disrupt the order of the flying process to the point that it visibly affected other passengers. Obviously, if everybody tried to pull this stunt, the airlines would have to stop it or risk a total breakdown of their baggage systems. People would start to realize that the bag fees they were paying were not paid by others who were getting their luggage first and would demand that those flying criminals be stopped or pay up – or they would demand to stop paying themselves.
Our Republic was designed to be such a fault tolerant system. For hundreds of years, we have been able to tolerate low levels of lawlessness from our elected officials because it didn’t rise to such a level that it encumbered the mission of our country. President Obama has upset that balance with his rule via executive orders. Harry Reid has changed the Senate rules to abet the lawlessness of the Democrats. Taxes are like bag fees for the good ship America – and we are beginning to notice that some people aren’t paying them but are getting their luggage first (government benefits/preferences).
Fault tolerant systems are only TOLERANT of faults, they are not impervious to them. When pushed past a point of fail-safe, they will collapse. Just as the baggage system would collapse under the weight of lawlessness and the ensuing disruption, America could be headed for a similar fate.
To say that cheaters never win is not true. A more accurate statement would be that “cheaters do win – but only up to a point.”