When Regulations Get in the Way

by Chris MacDonald

IMG_3794This sign is posted in a planter on the sidewalk in downtown Philadelphia.

It’s a great example of how normative signs can demonstrate more general principles of regulation. In this case, it demonstrates that sometimes regulations — the regulations someone thinks, rightly or wrongly, are needed — are just so intrusive that you might as well give up on the regulated activity altogether.

As you can see from the image below, the normative sign here sort of um, dominates the ostensibly beautifying flowers.
Thinking about normative signs as an attempt to regulate behaviour, we should also notice that there are alternatives here. The owner of these flowers could have opted to place spikes along the edge of the planter to make sitting on the planter uncomfortable. Would that be better, or worse?