Self-regulation in society is a laugh

Monday, October 6, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:04 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

I have observed that the “haves” seem to be the only people who do not realize that they live in a different world from the “have nots.” To say that this makes for a confused situation really is an understatement. I think those of us who read daily newspapers understand that. We can begin on page one, for example, with a story about how much better self-regulation would work in businesses like telemarketing firms or in industries which cause an impact on the environment or in insurance companies dealing with health-care management. We are supposed to glean from this that we would all be much better served if we let these people regulate themselves. We will learn that the ineffective and ineffectual “mean old” federal government will simply make a mess of it all because obviously, this is not a government of the people, but one that is comprised of people who come from another planet and don’t understand how we do things here.

From page two on, we will read stories about how often married couples cheat on their spouses, how many corporate officers have been caught stealing from their investors, how many civil servants have been caught selling classified information to the enemy, how many families have been caught stealing cable television, how many kids are illegally downloading music from the Internet and how many men have been intercepted while trafficking in child pornography. Rational thinkers will, of course, pause at this point and ask themselves where are these stellar persons of sterling character who will join hands and regulate their industries to operate in the public interest? At that time, conventional wisdom will suggest that government regulation will involve legal restrictions, which means that people found in violation will be arrested and put in jail. Self-regulation will lead to a round of wrist-slapping and some promises to do better.

As far as I’m concerned, one would have to be pretty gullible to believe that these people really believe their propaganda. Anyone who looks at how intellectual property has been filched from the Internet would have a hard time believing that many people left on their own will play fair. For a long time, I was willing to forgive people who continue to operate within the context of a World War II mentality. Most of the people who made up the population during the 1940s grew up in a world in which most people learned the tenets of religion and ethics from their families. They functioned for the most part in a world in which appropriate behavior was applauded and inappropriate behavior was unveiled and punished. Greed was not considered cause for adulation, which it is so often these days. Vulgar public behavior did not ensure an automatic admission to celebrity status as it does nowadays. Sexual promiscuity was seriously frowned on, and those guilty of it were banished by society. Therefore, those who refuse to accept the fact that the American character has changed radically are really kidding themselves and actually constitute a threat to society by continuing to perpetuate this dangerous myth.

When I was a young mother, I was absolutely appalled at what I felt were the disgraceful interpretations that were placed on the works of Dr. Benjamin Spock. As a stern disciplinarian, I could find nothing in the man’s writings that encouraged permissive behavior, and I was flabbergasted when I heard people accusing him of leading the way down the path toward social destruction.

I suppose we could blame any number of magazines, child psychologists, welfare activists or television and movie producers for convincing parents that children should be allowed to express themselves at all costs. We could also blame educators and clerical leaders for not pointing out the dangers of that kind of behavior. But somehow many teachers, doctors, lawyers and judges fell into the pattern of exonerating people by separating action from consequences, and generations were born and have grown up without ever learning the difference between positive and negative behavior.

While all this was going on, these idealists were undoubtedly in their storehouses counting their money, or they might have noticed. In any case, these are apparently the people we are being asked to allow to self-regulate their various endeavors. Would this be anything like allowing the crime families to enforce the law?

Most people have a hard time disciplining themselves to stick to a healthy diet. That’s why, when we form communities, we have to create ordinances to ensure that we respect the rights of each other and our properties. Why deceive ourselves and try to engage in practices that are unrealistic?

Self-regulation? Oh, please.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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