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It's been awhile since I last posted the canonical list of reasons to follow the rules and reasons to use your best judgement. I've added a few more to each side as I've witnessed the arguments here.


So here's the current list.


Reasons why one might argue that someone should follow the rules:


R1. Obeying rules set by legitimate authorities is a moral imperative in itself.

R2. Rules are set by persons with greater knowledge and experience and thus should be followed. The rule is there to protect you and not following it increases the chances of a bad outcome.

R3. It's important to show respect for rules in order to set a good example for others.

R4. Breaking small rules will lead to less respect for more important rules.

R5. If you agreed to follow the rules, you are obligated to follow them.

R6. If everybody picked and chose what rules to follow, there would be chaos, and dumb people would ignore the wrong rules.

R7. If you violate the rule, you may be punished.

R8. If its ok to break a rule, its ok to break all rules. You either obey rules, or you dont.

R9. If it's ok to break a rule, people will break rules just to do what's best for themselves.

R10. Rules allow for consistency from time to time and place to place. It allows you to know what behavior is expected, to predict how others will behave, and how to interpret some results (e.g. what earning a rank represents.)

R11. Not following the rule makes you more likely to be sued (successfully).

R12. Following the rule is not a big deal.

R13. If you voluntarily join a group, you should voluntarily want to go along with their rules.

R14. Rules that come from God are good and should be obeyed by definition.



Reasons why someone might argue that you should use your judgement:


J1. The rule is unjust. (Favorite example - failing to turn over Jews to the Nazis and lying about it).

J2. The purpose for the rule clearly does not apply to the particular situation. (e.g. A requirement to "take a number" when there is nobody else waiting.)

J3. The rule is routinely violated and rarely enforced. (This is probably the true reason most people speed a few mph over the limit.)

J4. The rule is silly. (Perhaps the fact that although it is shaped like a pocket flap, a Tot'n Chip is not supposed to be worn on the pocket flap of the uniform.)

J5. The rule is inconsequential, and the consequences of violating it are too small to matter. (This is in the eye of the beholder, of course--perhaps wearing green socks that are identical to Scout socks, but without the red stripe, under long pants.)

J6. The rule is inconvenient. (Ignoring two-deep leadership because a second adult wasn't available would be an example.)

J7. You think you know better than the people who make the rules. (Taking scouts to play laser tag or paintball, maybe.)

J8. Following the rule will cause one person to be singled out/embarrassed.

J9. Other substantial negative consequences to following the rule (maybe, in Cub Scouts, one family's tent collapses during a rainstorm in the middle of the night, and they move in with another family who has a large tent.)

J10. It's the spirit of the rule that matters, not the letter of the rule (maybe allowing a couple who has been together for 15 years, but isn't technically married, to share the same tent)

J11. There is an overriding reason of a health or safety emergency (often comes up in these discussions, but is non-controversial in reality, as everyone tends to agree it's ok to break a rule to save a life)

J12. The rules suck all the fun out of the activity. (maybe the rule is you have to listen to a one-hour safety lecture before firing a bb-gun.)

J13. The rules, as written, appear to be bizarrely complex.

J14. The rulemaker exceeded his authority in making the rule.

J15. The rules are in service to a greater principle, and the greater principle is what matters (e.g. service to the kids). The spirit-of-the-law vs. the letter-of-the-law.

J16. People in authority indicate the rules are flexible.

J17. Freedom is a moral imperative in and of itself. Its best to give people as much leeway as possible in interpreting how rules apply to their lives.

J18. The rule is utterly impractical (e.g. no driving after dark).

J19. Other general principles or rules override the rule in question. (e.g. brothers and sisters can share a tent on a Cub family campout even though the G2SS says male and female youth may not share the same sleeping facility).

J20. The person really does know better than the rulemaker, because of unique personal expertise, or insufficient time/attention paid by the rulemaker.

J21. The rule is very general and does not (and can not) take into account all of the specific situations it may apply to. The situation may allow the rules intent to be achieved through alternate means.


I think that most all of us live on some continuum where we might break the rules in some situations. What seems to divide us is where that appropriate point is.

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Good topic.


Hopefully, we are informed beings with free will, conscience, and duty to others. I teach my scouts that a good leader understands and can explain the reasons for his rules and if you decide to go against the rules you too will be asked to explain your reasons. There is responsibility and accountability on both sides. Judgment building is an exercise for both leaders and followers.


These came to mind and some overlap yours.


Rn1. Rules are clearly posted for all to see. Ignorance is no excuse. (Local Tour permits come to mind)

Rn2. Imperfect rules are better than no rules. (Guide to Safe Scouting)

Rn3. Following the rules may make you "uncool" but they build character.

Rn4. Follow me.



Jn1. Who knew? Show me where it is stated and by whom?(Again, local tour permits)

Jn2. Imperfect rules are in flux. Sometimes they apply, sometimes they don't. Rules in flux don't sound like rules so ignore them.

Jn3. Breaking the rules involves punishment, but you felt it was right thing to do and built character as a result.

Jn4. Don't blindly follow. Think first.



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Laws are good too. I remember a few laws by Murphy. It's a preventative thing. By catering for the Murphy law that applies we rarely find it occurs but that one time we do not plan with the Murphy law in mind reinforces their importance. Every time.

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