Rules vs. Principles

Wrote Ben Lovejoy:

I split hairs about rules and principles because I see and have lived with the differences, and I believe they represent two opposing forces in a home and school environment. Principles are internal; rules, external. We enforce principles for ourselves, while others force rules upon us. Principles are something people stand for and seem to have with them throughout their lives. Rules are something people tend to follow and just as soon cast aside once the situation that warranted the rules in the 1st place is over and done with.

Principles represent a standard of conduct that people uphold because the standard stands for something important to them. Principles come from observation, reflection, and active discussions with others. Rules are more like borders that contain someone and can only be crossed with specific permission. They’re usually cut and pasted from another generation’s set of rules, and figuratively hung from the homes and offices of the plagiarists with the same reverence as a diploma. The problem is there is absolutely nothing original or reasonable about rules. They’re hollow and senseless.

Agreed. Well put. I see no reason not to carry this through to larger society and politics.


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Founder and editor of and, Skyler is a husband and unschooling father of three beautiful children. His writings include the column series “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” and “One Improved Unit,” and blog series “Two Cents“. Skyler also wrote the books No Hitting! and Toward a Free Society, and edited the books Everything Voluntary and Unschooling Dads. You can hear Skyler chatting away on his podcasts, Everything Voluntary and Thinking & Doing.