Lyle H. Rossiter, Jr, MD

For some time now, we have heard news of failed economies and failed com-panies, failed markets and failed marriages, failed domestic and foreign policies, failing cities and failing states, failing students and failing institutions.  Oddly omitted in this news has been mention of the primary reason for these failures: a failure to play by the rules essential to rational living.

Approximately half of the US population doesn't like these essential rules. These people call themselves liberals. They support the modern permissive culture, the culture of self-indulgent rule breaking. 

The other half of the US population knows that human beings have to follow certain rules to have good lives.  These people call themselves conservatives and libertarians. They defend a traditional culture of restraint. These people know the following facts of life:

  • In the care of our bodies we have to obey the rules of physics, chemistry and biology. If we don't obey those rules, the result is injury, disease and death. The epidemics of substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and obesity in America illustrate the point. 
  • In marital and family relationships we have to follow certain rules regard-ing fidelity, thoughtfulness, and responsibility. If we don't obey those rules, the result is emotional pain and family breakdown. The epidemic of divorce and broken families illustrates the point. 
  • In economic transactions we have to obey the laws of supply, demand, price and scarcity.  If we don't obey by those rules, the result is economic failure and material loss. The current worldwide credit and financial crises illustrate the point. 
  • In social behavior we have to follow rules of honesty, fairness, mutuality, and courtesy.  If we don't obey those rules, the result is social turmoil. The American epidemic of rudeness, vulgarity and violence illustrates the point.
  • In political transactions we have to follow rules set out in our Constitution that protect individuals from harmful actions by governments.  If we don't obey those rules, the result is economic chaos and political warfare. The ongoing transformation of America from a reasonably peaceful and well coordinated capitalist society into a highly conflicted collectivist battle-ground illustrates the point.

Since all of this is quite obvious (with a little reflection), the question arises as to why so many of us don't follow the rules that make our lives better.  Surely, we know the risks: history tells us that any society that fails to follow the rules suffers mightily, and eventually collapses.

Lyle H. Rossiter, Jr, MD

Lyle H. Rossiter, Jr, MD is the author of The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness. He received his medical and psychiatric training at the University of Chicago and served for two years as a psychiatrist in the United States Army. He is currently in private practice in the Chicago area.
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