rule of law

It is not difficult to reach the conclusion that for broken windows policies to be effective the key element is enforcement -which Wikipedia defines as

the process of ensuring compliance with laws, regulations, rules, standards, or social norms.”

By enforcing laws and regulations, authorities attempt to effectuate successful implementation of policies, while attempting to serve a number of functions:

  • ensure conformity within insular communities.
  • maximize social benefits and protect the public interest.
  • serve the self-interest of the institutions that oversee enforcement.

My concern is: what happens when the authorities tasked with enforcing laws and regulations don’t do their job -for lack of means or for lack of will. What happens when they look the other way, when they grow complacent or -even worse- when they grow complicit.

While it is true that it would be impossible to post a police officer in every corner (impossible and undesirable), it is also true that the law needs to be enforced: if people are speeding, running stop signs, or committing any other misdemeanors, they need to be held accountable and given a ticket. Why? Because, unfortunately, if there are no consequences for their actions these conducts will continue -and, over time, probably increase and get even more serious (just take another look at the broken windows theory).

So, is there anything that the average John and Jane can do about this? I think so. Furthermore, I think that not only there is something the average citizen can do, but something the average citizen should do -after all, as Eldridge Cleaver said

If you are not part of the solution, you must be part of the problem.”

In this context, that means that you and me and all of us can contribute to the enforcement of the law. No, I am suggesting a Stasi-like state, where half the population spies on the other half. I am suggesting something more along the lines of the traditional African proverb,

It takes a village to raise a child.”

Just as a child has the best ability to become a healthy adult if the entire community takes an active role in contributing to his/her rearing, our communities will have a much better chance of being healthy if we all contribute. How? I can think of a few examples:

  • being law-abiding citizens, setting ourselves as examples of conduct, especially for our youngsters.
  • respecting and supporting our law-enforcement community, aware that they can’t be everywhere all the time.
  • not looking the other way when we witness conducts that can affect the health of our communities, such as speeding or littering.
  • reporting bigger transgressions to the proper authorities, so that those responsible can be held accountable.

I know, I read this and think that probably many of us already do that. But this is not universal: not everybody does that and not every country has a culture of community policing ingrained in their belief system. I really think this helps prevent community neglect, deterioration and -ultimately- decay, so we would all benefit if we all pitched in. Do you?

care to comment?

your email address will not be published.