Friday, January 12, 2007

Rules over Results

This article by Walter Williams uses an analogy to describe the rule of law instead of the rule of results:
By creating and enforcing neutral rules, we minimize conflict. Consider one area of ruthless competition -- sports. In Super Bowl XL, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks had a lot on the line. Specifically, there's the $73,000 payment per man, contract enrichment and other benefits to the winners. Despite a bitterly fought contest and all that was at stake, the game ended peacefully and winners and losers were civil to one another.
How is it that players with conflicting interests and reasons for winning can play a game, agree with the outcome and walk away as good sports? It's a minor miracle of sorts. That "miracle" is that it is far easier to reach agreement about the game's rules than the game's outcome. The rules are known and durable, and the referee's only job is their evenhanded enforcement. Even football teams with losing records would find their long-run interests lie in known, durable and evenhand rules. They can more adequately devise a winning strategy because predictability is enhanced.
Suppose the game rules were flexible and referees played a role in determining the game's outcome. In other words, imagine the referees were more interested in what they saw as justice than enforcing neutral rules. What might one predict about team behavior? Instead of trying to raise team productivity, owners would allocate resources to influence-peddling in the form of lobbying or bribing the referees.
This is exactly correct. The rule of law should be enforced. Equal outcomes should never be legislated. Thanks Walter.


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