Rules Versus Righteousness

Yes, we’ve seen a string of irrational, malicious and even murderous rules lately, but that’s not what I’m addressing in this post.

Today my point is that rules by themselves – rules by their essence – are the opponents of righteousness. I know this strikes most people as impossible, but I’m convinced that it’s correct and important.

I expect this concept to take root slowly; human psychology is just that way: It takes time to absorb and sift ideas that are not only new, but which stand against basic assumptions.

So, if this seems like it’s “too far out there,” please try to let it remain in your mind as a possibility, even if a far-fetched one. Thanks.

It Nearly Always Comes Back To Structure

There are multiple ways to analyze almost anything, but the one that stands out to me is analyzing the structure of things. As it happens, this type of analysis is rarely done for human affairs, which I think accounts for a significant share of our problems.

What I want to do, briefly, is explain the structure of righteousness, and show you why rules oppose it. So, let’s start with a definition:

Righteousness is not merely doing the right thing, or even knowing that you are doing the right thing. It is doing the right thing by your own will.

You don’t improve your inner workings by following rules. Rather, you surrender them to an exterior command. That insults your inner parts rather than using and upgrading them.

Once, however, you generate your own desire to do beneficial and courageous things, you both strengthen your inner parts and know that you are a source of benefit in the universe. That is righteousness, and it’s a massively beneficial thing.

The great difference in the two models is that in one of them our inner parts are subsidiary and inferior to something external… our actions are derived from something outside… our goodness is not inherent, but subsidiary.

In the other model, our inner parts generate goodness, making us primary and potent beings; beings who continually improve.

Once we begin to see and accept this, we become objectively better beings… we grow and expand… and we very certainly become more confident and reliable beings.

And There Is Much, Much More

I won’t take space to go through examples of how rules diminish us and self-generated goodness improves us, but there are many; I’ve written about them in our subscription newsletter, in other articles posted here, and other places.

Still, it’s notable that the best human actions arise where rules are absent or disregarded. The human who surrenders his or her judgment to rules is highly unlikely to show courage and to stand up for the oppressed. The man or woman who summons the courage to act beyond the rules is the actual hero. As Martin Luther King noted:

We should never forget that everything Adolph Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.”

One final point: Humans have promoted rules as a path to goodness for millennia, with a doggedness to rival any compulsive disorder. If rules worked, we’d be a race of angels by now.


Rules do not engender human progress, rather they hinder it. Again, I know that this seems strange and even threatening, but I submit to you that while the concept may be foreign, it is true all the same.

Rules displace and disgrace our inner mechanisms. We and our entire world will be far better off once we stop treating them as idols.

Thanks for considering it.


Paul Rosenberg

8 thoughts on “Rules Versus Righteousness”

    1. Very apt at this time as we begin building a new world. Laws beget laws beget loopholes. Law is a self-perpetuating machine. It rolls over people and ruins lives, or sustains needless careers and the success of psychopaths. What we need are a few good principles. It’s not complicated. Wise elders can adjudicate disputes. I’d rather be in the hands of a Human than a machine.

  1. Dear Mr. Rosenberg,
    Thank you for Freemansperspective.

    Just now on an interview with Giji Foster re: “The Madness of Crowds.” At approximately 11:00 minutes into the interview Ms. Foster states: “They simply have outsourced their sense of truth and their sense of morality to the crowd, to the group. And that is incredibly dangerous.”

    Ms. Foster encapsulates the antithesis of the individual centric moral/ethical structure you describe. She seeks an explanation in a “crowd psychology dynamic.” What is the nature of this dynamic is the million dollar question. Is it at root deference to authority? deference to rules (as you address in this article)? the “madness of crowds?” simmering resentment between classes or races? all of the above? I don’t think that any of these answers precludes cultivation of the situation by governments and their intelligence agencies, corporations, or NGOs. However diverse the mechanisms involved, one solution (as you have insightfully suggested), may inoculate us from the madness. It would be interesting to challenge someone infected with the madness, “Stop and imagine physically restraining and injecting someone against their will. How do you truly feel about that?” (hoping to elicit a personal sense of goodness)

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