I choose my riding style mindful of my own safety and that of my neighbors, but also in pursuit of happiness. Uninterrupted motion, gliding silently and swiftly, is a joy.And you ask why it annoys anyone! There will always be some people who are annoyed by somebody else having fun — you know, the people H.L. Mencken was knocking when he defined Puritanism as "The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." But there's something else about rule-following that matters. If there's a system of rules, individuals can always subjectively, flexibly, pragmatically spin out all sorts of applicable exceptions that let them do what they want. Randy Cohen has used his big brain to determine that he's right about the unnecessary severity of the rule in this case, but he's promoting a style of thinking, an approach to ethics, that others will use in all sorts of self-serving ways. If we're not going to follow the rules anymore... then what?
Interestingly, Cohen ends his little essay with a quote from Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who, we're told sometimes bikes to work:
“The advantages? Exercise, no parking problems, gas prices, it’s fun. An automobile is expensive. You have to find a place to park and it’s not fun. So why not ride a bicycle? I recommend it.”Now, Breyer isn't saying anything about whether or not he follows the rules, and Cohen seems to be injecting relevance by quipping: "I don’t know if he runs red lights. I hope so." But if you know a few things about Supreme Court Justices and their theories of interpretation, you shouldn't think Cohen dragged in Breyer because he's some random celebrity who, like Cohen, bikes for fun.
Breyer is not a rules guy:
Breyer has six interpretive tools—text, history, tradition, precedent, the purpose of a statute, and the consequences. In his view, it's a mistake to ignore the last two. Scalia replies that to look at either the purpose or the consequence of a statute is to invite subjectivity and beg the question.And yet, Scalia admits he's "exceeded the speed limit on — on occasion."
PIERS MORGAN: Have you ever been caught?
SCALIA: Oh, yes. I've gotten tickets. None -- none recently.
MORGAN: That's it? That's -- that's the only criminal act..
SCALIA: Yes. I...
MORGAN: -- in your life?
SCALIA: -- I am pretty much a law-abiding sort.
MORGAN: I like the phrase "pretty much." It gives me somewhere to go.
SCALIA: No I -- I'm a law-abiding citizen.