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The Cultural Value of Stratified Guidelines

Carter Gibson

There are a lot of rules to follow in life. Some of those rules are written down in law that you can look them up whenever you’d like. Others are unspoken norms you either proactively learn about from someone in the know or by accidentally breaking them and facing an unintended consequence. There are more severe consequences for breaking laws (eg, jail time, fines, etc) and less severe consequences for breaking social norms (eg, ejection from a friend group, a disapproving look, an argument, etc). We instinctively understand that there are many different layers of expectations placed upon us socially on top of a foundation of rules that no one should violate.

For example, we know that, as Americans, we have to follow certain federal rules which are, for our day-to-day activities, fairly well understand by everyone. Don’t murder. Don’t steal. After acknowledging — and, for the most part agreeing to — the governance that dictates our foundational national identity, we understand...

There are a lot of rules to follow in life. Some of those rules are written down in law that you can look them up whenever you’d like. Others are unspoken norms you either proactively learn about from someone in the know or by accidentally breaking them and facing an unintended consequence. There are more severe consequences for breaking laws (eg, jail time, fines, etc) and less severe consequences for breaking social norms (eg, ejection from a friend group, a disapproving look, an argument, etc). We instinctively understand that there are many different layers of expectations placed upon us socially on top of a foundation of rules that no one should violate.

For example, we know that, as Americans, we have to follow certain federal rules which are, for our day-to-day activities, fairly well understand by everyone. Don’t murder. Don’t steal. After acknowledging — and, for the most part agreeing to — the governance that dictates our foundational national identity, we understand...

There are a lot of rules to follow in life. Some of those rules are written down in law that you can look them up whenever you’d like. Others are unspoken norms you either proactively learn about from someone in the know or by accidentally breaking them and facing an unintended consequence. There are more severe consequences for breaking laws (eg, jail time, fines, etc) and less severe consequences for breaking social norms (eg, ejection from a friend group, a disapproving look, an argument, etc). We instinctively understand that there are many different layers of expectations placed upon us socially on top of a foundation of rules that no one should violate.

For example, we know that, as Americans, we have to follow certain federal rules which are, for our day-to-day activities, fairly well understand by everyone. Don’t murder. Don’t steal. After acknowledging — and, for the most part agreeing to — the governance that dictates our foundational national identity, we understand...