The Gift of Accountability
Following the tumult of the recent Presidential election, it seems a good time to revisit how our system of government, particularly transitions in power, help provide the stability and prosperity we share as a nation. Whether one supported the President-elect or one of his challengers, the fact of his election -- and the peaceful transition of power -- is one of the most important features of our country's history. Our consistently peaceful transition from one administration to the next is one of the remarkable features distinguishing our country from many others.
Implicit in our rights as Americans is the corresponding responsibility we have to participate meaningfully in society. This includes, fundamentally, complying with society's laws. Some of these are codified in criminal codes, and some are unwritten. All are important to the foundation of government, and all require personal accountability.
Society has determined that the breach of certain rules poses such a risk to itself that those breaches must be punished, both to prevent future transgressions by the same person and to send a signal to others who would also break the law. Enforcement is a form of behavior modification, with the goal being to induce future compliance. Compliance with society's laws and expectations enhances stability, which promotes tranquility and peace of mind. This allows people to focus on their families, jobs, and other socially useful activities.
Enforcement can be a substitute for personal accountability. From time to time certain people either refuse to exercise personal accountability or are unable, for one reason or another, to do so. Law enforcement imposes accountability when it is missing. This accountability, whether internally or externally imposed, helps create the predictability that makes free choice meaningful. Without predictability our choices matter less or not at all. Accountability enhances predictability.
Accountability where it is lacking is a gift, therefore, to the smooth functioning of society. There are many ways to achieve it, and it is not the only necessary ingredient. However, particularly when dealing with those least able or least willing to hold themselves accountable, law enforcement officers often re-introduce accountability to the system, frequently at risk to themselves. They do this without thought of receiving anything special in return, and for this -- their gift -- we thank them.