Springingtiger's Blog

Not So Much The Rule Of Law As The Law Of Rules.

We live in interesting times. British politics is in a state of upheaval. The Trades Unions and employee rights are under attack as never since Peterloo. No matter how people organise themselves or how they accomplish their results someone will attack them.

wpid-wp-1410794838438.jpegIt is very frustrating when one is party to information that might cause considerable embarrassment and damage to an organisation and which, were they to act on it might bring about improvements in their processes and benefits for all, but one must remain silent. In this country there are rules supported by a legal foundation that govern how one may proceed in all sorts of cases, regardless of how much easier it would be to have a quiet word in someone’s ear. These rules are so restrictive I can’t even use an example in case people recognise from whence I’ve drawn it.

However these rules are there for a purpose and to protect society as a whole. Were it not for procedural rules the system would be biased in favour of those with powerful connections ̶ perhaps I should say, more biased. We complain of a lack of transparency in society, politics, management, it is only by regulating procedures that we can ensure any sort of equality of treatment.

I used to be a Trades Union Branch official and I am well aware of how much we used to get done by talking with management behind closed doors. Unfortunately this way of doing things depended entirely on the relationship between the Union Official and manager, it worked well when both sides were prepared to make accommodations for the other and was a disaster when they wouldn’t. The other problem is that no one had any oversight of what we were up to and it made the members uneasy. In this case transparency did not improve things for the members, however conducting business according to the rules did provide them with certain minimum protections, but not the benefits we achieved by bending them. Therein lies the problem of ‘off the record’ dealings, by bending the rules one becomes to an extent a hostage of fortune.

Where there is a lack of transparency there is almost inevitably a lack of trust. We only have to look at the ongoing stooshie around the Labour Party’s Leadership to see how edicts handed down by an unrepresentative elite, without adequate explanation, cause bitterness and resentment. It’s not just within political parties that we see the problem. In the arcane world of banking we have seen what happens when people are allowed to operate with insufficient oversight. The periodic scandals that emerge from businesses and public services tend to have been perpetuated in secrecy and it is exposure that ends them. Transparency removes the danger of exposure by preventing the abuses of trust in the first place.

On balance I would have to come down in favour of openness and transparency, I accept that we need rules to ensure that procedures are adhered to. Short-cuts can cause more problems than they are worth. But let’s be honest it is very frustrating to have to go through a long and detailed process when one knows a matter could be completed much more efficiently by not adhering to procedure. There will always be a temptation ̶  often for the best of reasons ̶ to bend the rules. Ultimately the discipline that overcomes that temptation is the best course for all…or so I try to convince myself.


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