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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Rules, Laws and Regulations

Rules, Laws and Regulations

Cranky opinion Saturday


Rules, laws and regulations are what define civilization.  Without them chaos would be the norm.  The downside to rules, laws and regulations is when they get too specific and detailed, common sense is discarded.

Have you ever found yourself late at night waiting for a traffic light to turn green?  Don’t you feel ridiculous waiting and waiting for the light to change while there is not a car to be seen in either direction?

Common sense tells you to cross.  It is safe.  It is more than safe.  It is ridiculously safe but the light is red and you wait.  Rules are rules and there is that friggin camera waiting to catch you and your common sense.  Rules trump common sense and you would pay a fine for sure.  So you wait.  If the light was actually broken you might never get home.

In business, sometimes regulations are so unrealistically strict in order to assure safe practices that short cuts are taken.  I suspect that is what happened in the BP oil spill tragedy.  This is just speculation, but it is the type of thing that can happen when processes are over regulated.

Workers quickly learn which regulations are too stringent, especially when they slow a process and cost them to miss deadlines.  At some point they learn they can get away with failure to “Close cover before striking.”  Regulators also learn to look the other way when they learn the consequences will be zero and they might find an envelope in their coat pocket.  

Before long silly regulations which are routinely overlooked become slightly more important regulations which are overlooked.  Finally, when the pressure is really on, when meeting a deadline means a bonus is on the line, the regulator finds a bigger envelope, and a foolish shortcut is taken.  An important regulation is ignored.   

This time the “matchbook” explodes in flame, lives are lost, and the ecology of the Gulf is put at risk. 

Miniscule silly regulations lead to complacency.  Sometimes the excess regulations which are put in place to avoid an accident can cause important procedures to be trivialized. 

Was the BP explosion the result of inadequate regulation, or overregulation?  I don’t know, I don’t know squat about offshore oil drilling, but I can see a scenario where a disaster could be caused by the very regulations which were devised to avert any accident.


The preceding Cranky opinion is not necessarily that of management (Mrs. Cranky.)


  1. Those damn cameras are the only reason why I don't cross the intersection at 2 am and NO ONE is around!

  2. To justify their jobs bureaucrats write regulations. And promotions are awarded to the most prolific regulation writers. And while regulation WRITING is easy, regulation ENFORCEMENT is whole 'nuther matter. The revolving employment door between regulators and the regulated doesn't help matters either. A lot of "looking the other way" goes on.


  3. I regularly drove home from shows in the wee hours of the morning. And I never stopped at the last light, if it was red. There was no one to see, and in two miles I would be in bed.

  4. I, too, am a wuss who stops at deserted red lights!

  5. Your post has inspired me to throw caution to the wind when it comes to regulations. As soon as I finish typing this I'm going to dash to our bedroom and tear those tags off our pillows that say, "Do not remove under penalty of law." See, I can "break bad" with the best of them.

  6. If you're from around here, go ahead and jump that light.
    There's nobody left to enforce that law anyway.
    Just make sure you don't hit somebody, because if you do, they'll sue your @$$.

  7. That happens all the time, albeit on a much smaller scale, in my office.

  8. I drive on the wrong side of my gravel road to avoid the deepest potholes and the "Great Chasm" carved out by runoff from the last heavy rainfall.

  9. Have you read ATLAS SHRUGGED? This post made me think of that novel. Sometimes I wonder if the creation of rules and regulations isn't done with the intent of forcing a business or person to break the law. There are now so many rules and regulations (aka laws) that we don't even know about that we most certainly all have broken at least one (albeit unknowingly).