Setting and Enforcing the Rules

Rules are critical in games and government, and there are two aspects to rules: (1) whether they’re fair and (2) whether they’re enforced fairly.

In both games and government, it’s sometimes difficult to determine the fairness of rules and enforcement, but these days, with the growth of both national and personal recording media, i.e., cellphones, it’s gotten easier to show unfairness in both the rules and their enforcement.

For example, in the 2018 NFC championship game between the Saints and the Rams, a Ram defensive back slammed helmet-to-helmet into a Saint receiver as he was about to receive the ball, clearly illegal under the rules. No penalty was called, even though millions saw the impact. Later, the NFL admitted it was a bad no-call. Effectively, that no-call changed the outcome of the game. It cost the Saint’s players money and the chance to play in the Superbowl. The problem wasn’t the rules; it was the enforcement of the rules.

The same situation exists in government today as well, particularly in terms of police enforcement of the criminal codes. When enforcement is badly handled, it often goes viral, as in George Floyd’s death and in dozens of other instances.

But when the “rules” are flawed, that’s often not as obvious, particularly when seemingly “objective” rules or laws aren’t nearly as objective as their proponents claim.

Requiring a photo ID to vote is simple for many people. They already have one. But if you don’t, it can be difficult and time consuming to obtain one because virtually every form of ID requires confirmation, either other ID cards or a birth certificate, and if you don’t have a birth certificate in your possession, it can be time consuming, and sometimes almost impossible to get a certified copy without supporting documentation or appearing in person, and given most bureaucracies, can easily take hours, if not longer, spent waiting. This places a far heavier time and loss of income burden on lower-income workers.

So does having elections on weekdays. Most professionals can juggle their schedules or just take time off to go vote. A significant proportion of hourly-paid workers can’t… not without losing money, which is hard when every dollar goes toward basic necessities.

College admissions based on SAT or ACT scores were designed with the purpose of creating a way to evaluate applicants for college more fairly. And they worked reasonably well [for those applying] when the majority of applicants came from upper middle class or upper class white families. It’s clear that they’re far less accurate in evaluating abilities of applicants from different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.

Part of the “rules” problem lies in the fact that most rules are created by elites of some sort, who write the rules, i.e., laws, based on their background and understanding… and then attempt to apply them to everyone, with enforcement based on the same assumptions. This works reasonably well in homogenous societies, but far less well in societies with significant numbers of differing ethnic/cultural groups… and much of the world is becoming less homogenous… and the previous homogenous majority, in more and more nations, is either failing to act or reacting adversely… which can and has led to civil unrest and violence.

4 thoughts on “Setting and Enforcing the Rules”

  1. R. Hamilton says:

    That’s not unsolvable. Free or vastly discounted fees and assistance in obtaining supporting documentation for identification should be possible. A requirement to grant a paid half day off (means-tested for low-wage workers only, IMO) could also be done, and keeping it to a half-day would reduce the impact on the employer.

    College admissions…learning is part of the requirement. Implicitly that also may mean learning some things that are not commonplace to poor urban dwellers. Arguably fixable with a special even-it-up course that provides an overview of the items everyone is assumed to know but apparently not everyone does.

    There are solutions short of eliminating all gates, because sometimes, it serves a purpose to have a gate, to keep the unqualified out. Some things legitimately have requirements beyond simply being human.

  2. Grey says:

    I’m frustrated by this essay because it reads as if the laws acting as gateways to voting are some sort of surprise or accident. They are neither.

    Laws like this, which are in force only in jurisdictions controlled by Republicans, are deliberately crafted to place the highest costs (time/distance/money) on people who they think will not vote for Republicans.*

    *Learn more:

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      A different MSM source and viewpoint; there’s always an alternative viewpoint, and it isn’t necessarily evil:

      1. Grey says:

        Respectfully, the WSJ article[1] doesn’t claim that voter suppression by Republicans isn’t real, it just argues it was not to blame for HRC losing to Trump.

        Each vote matters. Trump won the 2016 electoral college by just 100,000 votes spread across WI, PA and MI[2] out of the nearly 130 million votes cast. With razor thin margins like these, knocking out your opponents’ voters through vote roll purges, long lines, unnecessarily-strict ID requirements, and remote polling locations will affect the outcome.

        Just days ago, thousands of people stood in line for over 4 hours (in a pandemic) in Georgia to cast votes in a primary election due to inadequate numbers of polling places and voting machines. (Which just, gee whiz, only seemed to happen in predominantly black areas.) How many gave up and went home?

        [1] Non-paywall version of WSJ article:

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