The Importance of Permission

Permission is a funny thing. Everyone wants it, but nobody really thinks they need it. In a perfectly free world, people would do whatever they want, go wherever they want, and park wherever they want for an undetermined amount of time. Human civilization would fall apart. In order for any society to function, people need limitations.

Lunch Line

I know you’re really excited, but you have to wait in line.

Limitations are not bad, They help us define ourselves and the world around us. Still it is no fun to reach your own limitations. Permission can give the ability to escape certain limitations for a little while. Without limitation there is chaos, but without permission there is despair.

When it comes to permission, there are four different types of people. People who don’t have permission, and don’t try to use it. People who have permission, and use it. People who don’t have permission, but act like they do anyway. And people who have permission, but don’t use it.

Permission Chart

In case that was confusing, here’s a chart!

Of the first type I have little to say. Except that people who neither have nor try to use permission are the backbone of society. They do what they are allowed to, and don’t do what they aren’t.

I imagine most of us fall into the first category. If the majority of us had perks, advantages, and special circumstances, then those things wouldn’t be so special.

But, even the most regular people are given special permissions sometimes.

When we think of people who have permission to do things, we often thing of the upper crust of society.

Pie Crust

Mmm, crust of society…

We should think of these people. After all, the rich, famous, and powerful are clearly allowed to do things the rest of us are not. Their fame lets them behave poorly, and then be celebrated for it. Their wealth gives them permission to live in houses that are way to big. Their power gives them permission to make sweeping decisions that effect the lives of others.

The upper echelons do have more permission than most, and most of them use it. But you don’t have to be rich a famous to be given permissions. If a door is locked, but you have the key, then you have permission to go in there. If you get a library card, you have permission to take as many books and movies as you want.


“Let me just activate the subspace tracking device.”

And sometimes we are given permission to do terrible things. A privateer is given permission to steal, as long as he steals from the right people. A soldier is given permission to kill, so long as he kills the enemy.

What about a person who kills or steals without permission? You call that person a criminal.


“The pharmaceutical companies are the real criminals, man.”

There are lots of people who do not have permission, but act like they do. Most of them do not kill or steal. Their acts are much more petty, and far less severe. Maybe they take a few grapes from the grocery store, or crash parties they weren’t invited to.

Each and every one of us has done things we weren’t technically allowed to. Minor transgressions will not make society crumble. When people repeatedly transgress, show no remorse, or even awareness of their transgression, then we begin to have problems. A person who constantly does things without permission shows nothing but distain for his fellow human being. A person who thinks they deserve to have no limitations is bad, and ought to be avoided.

And so we go from the worst, the petulant who think they don’t need permission, to the very best. The silent, invisible saints of society. The people who have great permissions, but choose not to use them.

But don’t get stuck in traffic behind a saint.


‘After you, sir.” – “Oh, no. After you. I insist.”