Wiggle Room

Todd D. Christofferson spoke yesterday about internal versus external behavioral control. If you have ever had to discipline children of any age, it gets you to thinking. I'm transcribing from my own imperfect notes, but he said something like this:

"The societies in which many of us live have, for more than a generation taught that truth is relative and that everyone decides for himself or herself what is right. Concepts such as sin and wrong have been condemned as value judgments. As a consequence, self-discipline has eroded and societies are left to try to maintain order and civility by compulsion. The lack of internal control by individuals breeds external control by governments. 

"One columnist observed that  'Policemen and laws can never replace customs, traditions and moral values as a means for regulating human behavior. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. Our increased reliance on laws to regulate behavior is a measure of how uncivilized we've become.' 

One of the major causes of the current economic recession was widespread dishonest and unethical conduct–particularly in the US housing and financial markets. More and stronger regulation may dissuade some from unprincipled conduct but others will simply get more creative in their circumvention. There could never be enough rules so finely crafted as to anticipate and cover every situation, and even if there were, enforcement would be impossibly expensive and burdensome. This approach leads to diminished freedom for everyone. In the end it is only an internal, moral compass in each individual that can effectively deal with the root causes as well as the symptoms of societal decay."

[ From a quick google search, I think this columnist he refers to is Walter Williams].
Anyone who has ever tried to teach children recognizes the truth in this; you can come up with one thousand different rules that any child can weasel his way around, but there isn't much wiggle room in concepts like "Be kind" or "Be honest". And where else do we start except for in our own homes and the immediate realm of our own influence?

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