There are an assortment of contexts where this conflict between Individual’s judgments and blanket rules raises its ugly head.
IF we vote a ‘bad’ person into office, i.e. he/she becomes ‘bad’ after election, we want a way to kick em out. Term Limits provides an easy answer: After 2 terms, you’re out! This requires NO action, or discrimination on our part!
What happens when we get a really, really great person into that office?
We’d like them to stay there forever…
So we have a ‘rule’ which ignores individuals; great or terrible, vs we must deal fully with an Individuals performance, i.e. vote them out of office.
In academia, we have a notion called ‘tenure’. It means that if you’ve been ‘good’ for a while, you can stay around forever. This is sometimes a beneficial option, since the person, who may be controversial, and true leaders are often controversial, no longer has to fight daily petty battles. But some ‘tenured’ individuals, over time, become less ‘good’ in our eyes, or more often in the eyes of their opponents. So, again, how do we kick them out? or should we?
Judges & Minimum sentences:
One area where we mostly expect an Individual, a judge, to decide matters is in our legal system. If there was a rule, a prescribed sentence, for every crime, we would not need judges at all. But we, for the most part, allow individual judges to exercise discretion, and decide in an individual situation what is the best way to administer justice. But when we, or certain powerful groups, do not like the way judges decide, we force ‘Minimum sentences’ on certain crimes, overriding the individual judges decisions.
Today, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009, there is a prominent story where a 6-Year-Old Scout was suspended for bringing Knife-Fork-Spoon Utensil to School. The rule won and the individual lost. NO discretion.
We witnessed Captain “Sully” Sullenberger as an Individual, do what no set of rules in the world could have done – save ALL of his passengers & crew in virtually impossible circumstances…
There have been many, many such instances…
So how do we solve this dilemma?
I do not have answers, but I want you, each of you to ponder, to think about this issue. Here are some provocations for your thinking…
Our founders saw public service as a temporary assignment. You might be a jeweler, or a banker, or a farmer, or a restaurant owner, or … Then you go serve a term or two, no more, as a senator, or governor, or Secretary of … or whatever. Then you return to your previous occupation. The notion of a ‘professional’ politician, serving for decades, was anathema to their thinking. I, personally, agree with them.