breaking rules 2: background checks

i do still think about whether i would like to initiate a career in the foreign service. one aspect i think about is background checks.

i’m under the impression that as long as you’re a good person, have no criminal convictions, and are mentally stable you should pass a background check. i think part of the test is how diplomatically you discuss your trespasses, if you show wisdom in the way you reflect on them and in your actions surrounding them.

but just now i was thinking about the question of breaking laws. a good case in point could be filesharing. yes, i have violated existing copyright laws in letter, but isn’t legality also related to enforceability? a law doesn’t exist as a law solely because it’s on the books. this concept was introduced to me in fourth grade social studies: in order to actually count as law, a rule or policy has to be fair, relevant, clear, and enforceable. this is because the inherent characteristic of law is that it be enforced.

that is to say, to be enforced effectively a law generally needs to reflect the values of society. and as i have argued since napster, copyright legislation is obsolete. if people actually thought downloading music were the same thing as stealing, i am confident that way fewer people would do it. yes, i violate the statutes, but am i breaking a law? i say no.

it’s like, sodomy wasn’t actually illegal even before lawrence vs texas, just some people tried to claim old sodomy laws should be enforced. despite the texas judge saying it was illegal, and despite the fact that homosexuality itself may in some ways still be illegal, sodomy was not, because the law was not meaningfully enforced.

i would like to think that background check investigators share my viewpoint. yes, as a federal employee you should respect what’s on the books because the public is your boss, but at the same time you should also be able to work with these issues in context.

plus i’m not sure how the state department would be able to meet their staffing needs if they only hired people who never broke any laws.


One response to “breaking rules 2: background checks

  1. Pingback: background check/truths out there « ill camino real

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