09 November 2012


I have often made the seemingly flippant remark that one can't feel right about oneself if one doesn't break the law at least once a day. I would expect that not one of the people who have heard me say that, has taken me seriously. But there is great emotional satisfaction in breaking the law. We are not talking here about murder, burglary, rape, nor credit card fraud, to name a few; we are talking about speeding, red lights, stop signs, and such. Committing a traffic offense isn't so much a sign of moral inadequacy or antisocial behavior, as it is simply an act of defiance. Whether you have thought about it or not, or have consciously come to the conclusion, people do become tired of being told what to do. If you leave your house in the course of a day, you will have some government body constraining your activities whether it be parking in a downtown parking spot longer than you are told you can, crossing the street at some place other than a marked walking zone or against the don't walk sign, changing lanes on the interstate without signaling, texting while driving: the list is practically infinite. And these instances are just the local government injunctions. We are not speaking solely of criminal acts here. We have the ocean of rules and regulations that control every conceivable activity from zoning ordinances, health ordinances, building codes, the Iowa Administrative Code, and the Federal regulations which would take a multistory building to hold. It doesn't take a criminal justice degree or a masters in psychology to understand that people simply get fed up with being told what to do. The surprising thing is that most people do try in most instances to do what they are told to do. I am unconvinced this is a good thing. It certainly reflects a lack of gumption in the general public. Are we all just a bunch of weenies? The argument against such defiance is that our country would devolve into a chaotic state where danger and misfortune would lurk around every corner. This is not a testable hypothesis, but a rationalization. As compliant and ignorant as the general population of the United States is, chaos seems unlikely. And although defiance has a certain positive quality, the current processes of parenting and public education usually eradicate most defiant tendencies of our younger population before they reach of the age of majority. So when a person says that he doesn't feel right about himself unless he breaks the law each and every day, it simply may be wishful thinking-a yearning for the loosening of constraints. And if it means excusing a person for running a stop sign on an empty rural intersection or driving ten miles an hour over the speed limit on an empty highway, the emotional satisfaction derived from such a petty infraction may be well worth it both for the person doing it and the authorities.