Stick to the speed limit


You can get anywhere in a car using just a few rules, perhaps three. Stick to the speed limit, drive on the left and give way to traffic to the right. Yes, there are many more rules but these three allow most people to get to where they need to be without too much thinking. Traffic is a self organising system.

In a way, the flow of traffic is a good metaphor for society. We need rules to make it work effectively but this number of rules needs to be small enough to be understood and not too many to stifle the free flow of people and ideas that is essential to its operation. They must be as near innate as possible and fit in with the way that people work.

This is the balance that a democratic government must achieve. Enough but not too many. A set of laws that is constantly reviewed and adapted that has both popular support and encourages society to function.

For this to happen we all need to buy into a social contract, one where we agree to abide by certain rules in return for security and liberty. Most people understand this without giving it much thought.

There will always be those however who are determined to bend, buckle and break the rules. There are always those who speed, overtake when they shouldn’t or pull out without due care. This is when accidents happen and the traffic flow comes to a stop. There are always people who steal, abuse and murder. This is when society breaks down.

Today I hear and read a lot of people complaining about how society is breaking down. The sensationalist media is filled with those who have broken the rules, the more hideous and deviant the better the newsworthiness. Prurience pays! 

I used to think that this was a sign that society was breaking down when now I think it is the opposite. The fact that people moan and are able to do so demonstrates that people are aware, if unconsciously, of their social contract. The greater the moaning, the greater is the desire to see society function.

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