Local column: Nation of values or rules?

The way to truth includes reasoning, study, discussion and listening. Over time, rule of law will come into konvergence with the values of the majority, writes Steve Piet.

Are we a nation of rules or values, or both? That’s the underlying issue in many recent columns, letters to the editor and controversies.

It’s also part of a decision science research project I led at Idaho National Lab; we called it “konvergence.” We spelled convergence with a “k” to denote knowledge. The v and r in konvergence denote values and resources. Decisions can be made, and kept over long time periods, only if the decision is consistent with knowledge, values and resources.

A project manager would instead say that a decision must fit with knowledge, rules and resources. “Rules” means Constitution, laws, regulations, etc.

Both perspectives require a set of knowledge and an understanding of what resources (facilities, materials, trained personnel) are required to implement the decision.

The difference in perspectives is rules versus values. In a democracy, one might argue that rules always reflect values. That might be true in a hypothetical small village where everyone is heard when a decision is made. Even then, there is the complication that values, knowledge and resources change with time.

The U.S. is not a small village democracy. It is a republic with established constitutions at the federal and state levels. We have legislators, executives and judges. Somewhere our forebears created massive bureaucracies. Often, these are responsive to the loudest voices.

We have written constitutions because our predecessors knew that being too responsive to the loudest voices leads to mob rule; mob rule is dangerous. Compare the single, continuous, evolving U.S. federal Constitution versus the five Republics of France. Two nations started self-rule at about the same time; one has repeatedly veered into chaos and mob rule.

So, fellow Idahoans, it is important to listen to the values of the various voices. But let not the loudest voices necessarily sway you. Loud does not prove truth.

One local loud voice is David Adler, Ph.D. Recently, Adler attacked Trump on the basis of a court denying that Nixon has the power to remove a special prosecutor. Just a few minutes on the web showed me that Adler left out the rest of the story, to use Paul Harvey’s phrase.

The law establishing that special prosecutor is different than what we have now. And, the alleged precedent was issued by a single judge, when it no longer mattered because Nixon had resigned. Adler’s case dissolves once you seek the truth.

Another loud local voice is the Bonneville Republican Party Central Committee. Some of those folks slimed Mayor Rebecca Casper and, fortunately, failed. Unfortunately, it appears their slime of Steve Yates worked. They slimed GOP lieutenant governor hopeful Steve Yates with their phony claim that he was a foreign agent. The closeness of the race suggests that this slime possibly cost him the nomination. I beg the winner, Janice McGeachin, to disavow the cabal and their tactics. If not, this Republican will vote for Democrat Kristin Collum.

The way to truth includes reasoning, study, discussion and listening. Over time, rule of law will come into konvergence with the values of the majority if we have patience and share our knowledge, explain our values and constrain our decisions to available resources.


Piet holds the Doctor of Science degree in nuclear engineering; he retired after 31 years at INL.


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