The Subtle Change from Principles to Rules Part IV of IV – What does it all mean?

5/14/2012 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

Today we will conclude our brief trip back to one of the origins of the agitation which is The Mint:  The Subtle Change from Principles to Rules.

The Subtle Change from Principles to Rules
The Subtle Change from Principles to Rules

The following is the final excerpt from our soon to be released free ebook.  It will be offered  for free through in all common ebook formats in the coming months.  What does it all mean?  Read on and let us know what you think!

What does it all mean?

At this point, we are forced to step back from the mud and ponder the events unfolding in the meadow and ask the questions that are raised in the parable, for they are of the utmost importance.

The parable highlights the subtle yet important difference between principles and rules.  In the meadow parable, the activities and projects referred to as meadow improvement represent rules.  Rules are made by those who either do not fully understand or do not desire to adhere to the principles of an activity and are generally imposed with the stated purpose of maintaining or “improving” the status quo.

Once a human institution, as the meadow was to represent, makes the subtle change from being guided by principles to being governed by rules, these rules fill the meadow with “cordoned off areas” and “canals” until no one can freely move about within them.

A glance at the following definitions will help us to better understand the conceptual difference between principles and rules.  A principle, according to the Encyclopedia, “signifies a point (or points) of probability on a subject (i.e. the principle of creativity), which allows for the formation of rule or norm or law by (human) interpration of the phenomena (events) that can be created.”  By contrast, a rule, according to, is “a principle or regulation governing conduct, action, procedure, arrangement, etc.”  Making a clear distinction between principles and rules is confusing because the terms are often used interchangeably to define two concepts that could not be more different.  This is why the change is subtle.

We must then attempt to compare and contrast these concepts in the following manner:  Principles make things possible.  Principles create.  Rules govern conduct or regulate.  Rules destroy.  With this understanding, we can now postulate that, while principles tend to create rules, rules tend to destroy principles once the propagation of rules dwarfs the principle that created them.  It is as if an invisible prison is constructed by the growing threat of going to a real one.

Does this mean that principles are bad because they create rules?  By no means, in the same way, rules are not bad either, but principles must be held above the rules that they create in order for the principles to maintain their power to create and make things possible.  Once rules are allowed to dominate, they thrust aside principles and a prison begins to quickly construct itself.

This is what our brilliant local CPA was alluding to in the GAAP Update seminar when he mentioned that the word “should” in of some of the pronouncements had been changed to “must.”  For this careful choice of words is perhaps the clearest manifestation of this subtle shift in American society, circa 2012.

The word “should” bestows some glimmer of freedom of choice upon the hearer.  As in “You should wear a jacket, its cold.”  While the word should implies a strong suggestion that would do well to heed, it is understood that one is free to ignore it, albeit at their peril.  Once the word “must” is placed in the same sentence, this freedom is removed and the only thing that remains is the expectation of punishment for non-compliance.  It describes this subtle change from principles to rules that is happening in not only in GAAP but in many other areas of society as well.

This choice of words will only lead to resentment and violence in the meadow, where those guilty of stealing water rations for their parched fellow meadow dwellers and for crossing into a cordoned off area are either incarcerated, banished, or exterminated in an increasingly futile attempt to keep the meadow clean.  While those dwelling in the meadow may gradually adjust to this dire state of affairs, it will be clear to all external observers that the once vibrant meadow has turned into a gruesome cross between a pig sty and a slaughter house.

Such is the fate of a society in which rules are employed to remove all semblance of freedom of its inhabitants.  It is not a question of if, but when.

It is abundantly clear that the principles of liberty and self-determination are the only antidote to the poison of rules once they have overwhelmed the principles that gave rise to them.

And what of the deer who began all of the bounding in the meadow in the first place?  Wouldn’t they have stayed around to ensure the freedom of bounding?  It is perhaps the greatest of ironies that these deer, who so fervently loved bounding and whose activities attracted the very people who would stifle and destroy it, would simply bound to another meadow as the first restrictions on bounding were drafted.

For it is the very nature of true freedom to respect the right to freedom of others.  Even if they choose to destroy the very freedom that has been accorded to them.

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Thanks again and we wish you all the best, deer reader!

Stay Fresh!

David Mint