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Who Rules the Earth?How Social Rules Shape Our Planet and Our Lives$
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Paul F. Steinberg

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199896615

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199896615.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 15 June 2021

Super Rules

Super Rules

10 (p.245) Super Rules
Who Rules the Earth?

Paul F. Steinberg

Oxford University Press

If you watch a group of children at play in an unstructured situation, soon you will be treated to a microcosm of how societies make rules, boiled down to the essentials. After some random running about, the children will eventually seek to build a social structure in the form of a game. The process unfolds with remarkable swiftness and predictability. By definition, every game requires rules, and these are the subject of considerable haggling at the outset. You have to touch the tree to be safe; no one can go past the rocks. The participation rules are negotiated with special care, because every child knows intuitively that these will affect the outcome. You have more people, so we get the big kid. It is equally fascinating to observe who makes the rules of the game. Over a chorus of competing ideas, the rulemaker is often the oldest or most assertive child, but not always. Someone may make a credible threat based on her resources and the power that accompanies them: It’s my ball and I don’t want to play that game. Alternatively, she may appeal to a source of moral authority recognized by the other players—it’s my house and my birthday party. Once settled, all participants in this miniature society must understand and abide by the rules. Those who break them are subject to a collective outcry from the group and even efforts at third-party enforcement: Mom, Richard keeps cheating! The situation is not so very different from the inner workings of our entire civilization, which is built upon a vast infrastructure of rules. Every business and every community, every religion and nonprofit organization, every terrorist network, taco vendor, and art museum relies on social rules to achieve its ends. Throughout this book we have seen how our lives and our landscapes are shaped by these rules, be they policies or property rights, safety codes or shared cultural norms. We are now ready to take a closer look at a special and very powerful category of rules—I call these super rules—that decide how other rules are made.

Keywords:   Federal Register, Sunshine Act (US), Transparency International, citizen suits, environmental stewardship, hazardous waste, international treaty on transparency, nuclear freeze movement, proportional representation, safety codes, sunshine laws, venue shopping

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