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Moats: Playing By The Rules

There's a phrase from sports that has always been intriguing to me: People say something is or isn't “in the interest of baseball.” The word “baseball,” spoken in this way, carries with it a whole value system or code of conduct.

Or people talk about the “good of the game,” and they're talking about an understanding of how the game is supposed to be played, about rules, sportsmanship and fairness.

In the same vein, a player or manager is sometimes called “a good baseball man,” someone who plays the game the way it's supposed to be played, someone who knows it's about more than his individual stats or a big contract. It's about the good of the game. Even kids out on the playground understand there have to be rules, even if they spend a lot of time arguing about what the rules are or how to apply them. They know someone who cheats wrecks the game and spoils the fun.

Democracy is like baseball. It has its rules, and the only way the game can be played is if there is a widely accepted understanding that the rules are important.

People abuse the rules, just as some players bend the rules of baseball to their advantage. But in the end, the rule of law must prevail or else there is no game. And if there's no game, all that's left is gangsterism, the rule of the tough guy out for his advantage and willing to do anything to gain it.

Even in a democracy, we have to be vigilant against the tough guy bent on undermining the rules. It may be a mafia don or a banker at Wells Fargo – they’re not just crooks, they’re a threat to the good of the game.

Maybe you can see where I’m going with this and what I'm talking about when I talk about the importance of the rule of law. The rules apply to everyone and ignorance is no excuse. Democracy is like a game where the rules are larger than any single individual.

It’s became fashionable to trash what we call the system. But the system is democracy, and the interests of democracy require that each of us - even the loudest bully on the playground - must submit to the rules.

And that's what's happening now – for the good of the game.

David Moats is an author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
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