The nature of rules

Timothy Eckert
Staff Writer

It is amazing how civilization is held together by the thinnest of fabrics. The rules that govern the land are for a greater good but it’s fascinating to comprehend what makes people follow them. Unlike the society in George Orwell’s 1984, we are not monitored by cameras every moment as we go about our daily lives. But what is it that makes us follow rules, even when no one is looking?
For example, two yellow-painted lines on the road compel me to not drift or pass other cars travelling in the same lane. I can’t throw my candy wrapper on the ground when I’m out for a hike in the woods. I can’t roll through a stop sign on an empty street. I can’t have an alcoholic drink until on one magical day, I turn twenty-one and the state deems that I’m all of a sudden mature enough to have one.
I can’t take somebody’s nice, new, stainless steel George Foreman grill off of their porch. I can’t go for a run in the park early in the morning until the sun comes up. Nobody’s looking, but I still don’t do it anyways. But why? Morals? Upbringing? Ecclesiastical obedience? Indeed all of these play a very important factor, but are rules and laws just one of the things that make up our species?
In the beginning of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, the human race is hypothetically portrayed without any laws at all. The result is utter chaos and anarchy in which man exists in a “state of nature”, where desires and appetites are the only laws that govern the actions of people. Because of this free-for-all, people are always pitting themselves against each other to try and quench their insatiable desires, therefore the lives of these wild people are “nasty, brutish, and short.”
Indeed no one in our society would want to live in an environment such as the “state of nature”, but it’s amazing to fathom that we were able to emerge from such an animalistic state thousands of years ago. Though many rules may be arbitrary, unreasoned and nonsensical, rules definitely make our lives a little less hectic and stressful than if they weren’t in place. Maybe it’s just part of our configuration but rules are just one of the things that make us stand out as one of the more unique species of the animal kingdom.