Sunday, June 04, 2006

Abstract Thoughts on "Rules"

When the Enron story was breaking I remember listening to a discussion on some NPR program about what possible regulation could be created to prevent such abuses from occurring in the future. Somebody made the argument that while regulation would be necessary, it didn't address the real problem. He said that in American business nowadays there was a widespread attitude that rules exist only to define an arbitrary limit of acceptable behavior: in other words, you can do whatever you want, you just have to make it somehow sound like you haven't crossed the line. Rules and regulations are thus desireable because they give you something specific to exploit for loopholes; they give you something to trip up the other guy with, if you can, and give you cover for your own actions if you can finagle things just right.

Thus, explicit statements of "Rules" for "acceptable conduct" that are supposed to define, I don't know, the line between what does and does not constitute "Integrity," can be worse than useless. As long as the "argument" can be made that certain behavior follows the letter of the rule, or at worst some ad hoc justification can be manufactured to cover for a violation of this rule, then the attempt at regulation fails -- not merely because it doesn't prevent the behavior, but offers an incentive to those already inclined to act in the manner specified as "corrupt" by laying out for them a kind of a game plan for breaking the rule without seeming to do so. This is especially the case when those predisposed to act in this fashion have a hand in writing the rule. For them, a fine ambiguity can be worth more than a state of "lawlessness."

Anyway, the guy on NPR went on to state that you always know whether or not someone is serious about "ethical reform" if they include a mechanism for enforcement and are willing to speak up when a violation occurs -- without first creating a cloud of irrelevant details, spurious ambiguities, and simple nonsense.

Anyway, I was just pondering all this ethical stuff in a totally abstract way on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I don't really mean anything by it.

Update: Can one really refute an accusation that one has no intention of "threatening" someone by repeatedly posting their names and employment information? That's a novel theory.... (No link. Gah.)

Anyway. Here is a picture of a duck. It means nothing. Well, nothing because it was collected online, but it is still very funny: "Where you aware that SATAN’s behavior has already become the subject of a forum provided under the aegis of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics (ALSC)? Do you understand the significance of that?" I think this duck is Extremely Concerned.

Does that duck have a pit somewhere? You know, a duckpit? If so, it may come in useful some day. Just observin', apropos of nothing.
Gosh, Hecate, how incivil!

Hee hee.
I know this is just a crazy conspiracy theory, but I have a feeling there's some sort of....unnamed subtext going on here.

Or maybe it's just gas.
A mallard. What an appropriate choice.
Here is a picture of a duck. It means nothing.

It means a lot to me. I love ducks.
Why, yes. I do wanna buy a duck...
Not that this is apropos of anything, but you could have used this picture, too. That one might have too much context to it, although the intent could be...blunter, in a manner of speaking.
LJ, ha!

Man I'm glad you're on my side...
There's a degree of underhand honesty in the term 'generally accepted accounting practices'.
It's basically admitting that if everybody fiddles the figures, it's not actionable.

That's scary.
I think mollusks are good at digging duck pits.

(Ever go on a geoduck hunt?)
I refute Berkeley, thus!

Ow, my toes hurts.
I had to come back to tell you the duck is amazingly vital to our continued existence!! They have been protecting the world from alien invasions all along! Here is the proof! Read and be in awe of duck powers!:;_ylt=AuKtQJdGT6x9RXVOxSCM6PMZ.3QA;_ylu=X3oDMTA4cmUwbnA1BHNlYwMxNzAy
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