The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.
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10:05am on Thursday, 17th September, 2020:
Two days ago, I was cycling up a hill on a bend and a cyclist came down it in the opposite direction on the wrong side of the road. I had to brake sharply; he shot past, apologising as he did so.
This morning, I was cycling up a different hill on a different bend and a different cyclist came down it in the opposite direction on the wrong side of the road. I had to brake sharply; he shot past, apologising as he did so.
This kind of minor "I know it's wrong but I think it's safe" infraction is what you get when rules are over-prescriptive. People think they can get away with being just a little naughty for their own convenience, so they get a little thrill by making petty violations. Over time, making petty violations becomes normalised. The sign may say you're not supposed to park outside the pharmacy, but you're only going in to buy some paracetamol so it's OK.
When I told my mother last week not to ride her mobility scooter until she got it fixed because the bolt connecting the steering column to the wheel assembly was loose, it wasn't merely a suggestion: more damage could have been done and the wheels could have come off. She figured that the important thing was not that more damage could have been done and the wheels could have come off, but that I would believe she had obeyed my instruction not to drive it. She drove it to the shop and back. The wheels did not come off, but more damage was done: the bolt sheared and jammed the steering mechanism. It's going to cost her an extra £80 to get a mechanic to drill out the remainder of the bolt and insert a new one. "I only went to get some milk".
Unfortunately, some of those rules that people break are there for good reason. Keeping to the correct side of the road is one example. Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is another. "I know we're not supposed to meet in groups of more than six people, but little Olivia is just a baby". Is little Olivia a person? Yes. Therefore, she counts as one of the six. If the government introduced exceptions, people would say the rules were "confusing" and ask for "clarity". When the government is completely clear and unambiguous, they break (or try to think of ways to circumvent) the rules without considering why the rules are there in the first place.
Too many nannying laws makes it hard for people to be law-abiding.
Also, people who think the government has it in for them don't feel obligated to obey laws unless they fear being caught, and entitled people don't think laws they don't like apply to them anyway.
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