Through my collective experiences from learning about religious values to developing program guidelines, I see the existence of a continuum of guidance. It is as follows:
- Instinct – the basic guidance system that functions at our biological & survival levels. The rules of the jungle.
- Intuitive Guidance – how we interact with others through feelings. The rules of emotional and social intelligence.
- Ethical Guidelines – a critical analysis about how we treat others and what we value. Also known as a Statement of Values which is just a more refined and wordsmithed summary and is typically public shared. The rules of values.
- Morals & Social Mores – an established set of rules about moral conduct with a clearly defined set of consequences. Tends to be based around religious scripture. The rules of philosophy and religion.
- Common Law – an evolving set of laws that is enforced by judges who create precedent by their interpration of society’s values. Also known as Case Law. The rules of society.
- Legislative Law – political forces and individuals who consciously create and enforce law based on a combination of societal and political values. The rules of nation states.
- Regulatory Law – institutions that further enforce law and professional conduct, human right transgressions, or economic outcomes. The rules of industry.
- Bylaws – are rules that direct non-sovereign groups in how to operate. The rules of a city or a corporate body.
- Policies – are rules that direct non-sovereign groups in more detailed and refined usually pertaining to the delivery of programs and services. The rules of programs or services.
- Protocols – are rules about the most efficient way to carry out a task. It is no longer the why, but the what or how. It is no longer necessary to think for yourself, but just implement what is being instructed to you. The rules of ISO and Best Practices.
I structured the list to go from the ‘not thinking’ of instinct to the ‘don’t think’ of protocols. As society has become more complicated and specialized, it has expanded from from social morals to institutional governance.
Developing this list reinforces my own frustration with society in that that every day new laws are created that further govern our actions and behaviors. No longer do we trust our instincts or intuition. We mistake policy for ethical analysis and do not use our powers of intelligence and discrimination like we should.