I live in a rural area, lots of four-way stops. I have noticed that most people have no clue how to deal properly with them. At busy ones, most people have fallen into the bad habits so prevalent these days. This is a problem.
I want to address the problem per se, but I also see it as an example that can be used for a wider point I will make in the rest of this post.
I assume U.S. readers, so we're talking driving on the right side of the road, and U.S. rules. I will also refer to the vehicles and their drivers as "the guy" this and "the guy" that. Sorry, folks, no offense, but in the interest of clarity and... being a guy... that's what I'm gonna do.
As you approach a four-way stop, look to your right. You'll be looking to see if anyone is waiting at or approaching the intersection from said right. If there is someone already waiting there, or if they should come to a stop before it's your turn... guess what... it'll be their turn before it's yours.
If you arrive and stop before anyone else (we're not talking microseconds here; be reasonable), congratulations! You go first. The next person to go is not the guy in front of you, coming the other way; it's the guy on your left. Altogether too often, we see that the on-coming traffic decides it's their turn despite a vehicle on their right. "I mean, we're both going straight, so what's the diff?" Wrong! That will get them a ticket if law enforcement witnesses it. And if an accident ensues, it will be deemed the fault of that driver.
So, let's go back to the simple... you come to a four-way stop, and there is only one car waiting: it's at the intersection, on your right. They go. Then you. It's the same if you both pull up and stop at the same time.
If the two of you and a third vehicle pull up, the third being on-coming traffic across the intersection from you, that third guy goes first, because he's the farthest to the right, then the one on your immediate right, then you. NOT the on-coming and you concurrently.
By the same token, if the third is on your left... so now it's you, one on your right and one on your left, all of you arriving concurrently, it's the one on your right, then you, then the one on your left. NOT the one on your right and also the one on your left. It is not, as some people seem to believe, that we are alternating cross-traffics; it is "the person on the right has the right."
If you were to watch it from the air, movement at the legs of the intersection revolves around the intersection itself in a clockwise direction. You could have an unlimited number of cross-streets and this circular pattern works; if you try to allow "the one on the right" and its on-comer, it would get simply unmanageable. Also, the circular pattern works if anyone is making a left turn; the "oncoming as well as the earned right-of-way" concept does not.
Here's a part most people either don't know or of which they haven't made themselves consciously aware: if someone waves you to go out of sequence; let's say they have the right of way, but they wave you through as the next in sequence, it's your fault if an accident ensues. They have the right of way, not the authority to direct traffic, even in this small way.
So, absorb that for a minute... that means that each person at an intersection has a meaningful and powerful motivation to enforce the pattern, the right of way, not only upon themselves but upon others as well. That's why when you tried to wave me through when you had the right of way (or you couldn't figure out if you did), I refused and basically forced you to follow the rightful pattern.
The foregoing is not only the actual, legal approach to rights-of-way, or "rights" at an intersection; it also serves as an allegory for other rights as well, even natural ones.
It's pretty clear that the word "rights" and the expression "rights of way" are absolutely part of the same concept--the word "rights" is derived as an abbreviation of "rights of way."
In our society, we talk about rights as if they were entitlements. And to a degree they are; but they are also an obligation, not only to follow the pattern that creates order, but to demand that of others as well.
Take a look at the rights of way at a four-way stop: the rules are simple and make no provision for the fanciest car, the highest level dignitary, the best paid, the biggest or the meanest or whose race or religion (or whatever) is "correct." No law of the jungle here; it's just fair, even-handed, efficient, and workable--everyone treated equal before the law.
The basic concept of rights--also simple, even-handed and not respecting the law of the jungle--and based in the nature of humanity and the world, is the one John Locke coined four hundred years ago: life, liberty and property--and that was partially enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and fully enshrined in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
A society that accepts that a person's life and therefore his or her time, energy and freedom of movement (Life, Liberty and Property--because property is time and energy, and also provides sustenance for living) are sacrosanct--such a society has a shot at true prosperity and avoidance of the society-destroying, social compact destroying, human-predation side of human nature.
Make no mistake: humans are predators, and we are a part of nature. Our teeth, our forward-looking eyes and our creative, calculating minds are all indicative of our fundamental predatory nature. But we also have an ability that is totally unique in the natural, animal world: we can choose how we satisfy our drives, and whether we depredate others and undermine peace among humanity, or whether we build a society, a protective group, that prospers together. We choose.
This is the point of Locke's natural rights of man. And in a society that accepts this concept of rights--that all people have a natural, individual right to their life and the liberty and property that sustain that life (which, BTW, precludes using predation--theft, robbery, murder--to get property, since the other guy also has the right to life, liberty and property)--and thus the equality of all individuals before the law, and thus moreover that order and peace and prosperity derive from simple concepts and practices, and then that the expectation that all will reinforce the order because it is in fact fair and reasonable... in such a society, one can expect wondrous results.
To my knowledge, this has never wholly existed in human experience. It had a shot in the early days of the United States of America. And as much as the U.S. only measured up to, say 50% (maybe even less) of the requirements of such a system, the promise and the payoff were tremendous. (What would it be like if we and our systems really understood and drove this set of principles? Heaven on Earth!)
Even the War to End State Sovereignty (aka, the "Civil War"--as if!) didn't screw it up too awful bad. At least, not right off the bat. The people, in general, of the United States prospered greatly--whether it was in industry or subsistence farming or whatever--until, over the fifty years or so post-war, the message of that war sank in: consolidation of power; centralization of power; now an us vs them and a pseudo-justification of overseers vs the overseen set in. It was all engineered--and fitfully but generally procured--by the same several families that have sought to rule the world for many centuries.
My point here is not to find the culprit people; it isn't even to find the culprit ideas. My point is that yes, very bad stuff has been made to happen, and the way it has been made to happen is by undermining people's understanding and commitment to the fundamental, natural and real bases of a wholesome, healthy and prosperous society (a society that, BTW, would also foster a healthy planet). Those principles, of course, are the understanding of not only the rights, but the application of those rights, that Locke laid out.
The worst we have allowed is for people, ourselves included, not to understand and not to insist on the natural rights of way that give a harmonious order to people in groups, including large, closely-co-located ones. We have allowed ourselves and our friends and neighbors and children to be guided down a path that removes us from those principles.
That which you fight against weakens you; that which you fight for empowers you.That is a message I've been on about for a long time now (I was stunned to find this particular phrasing in a fortune cookie!). That is why I am not seeking to identify and destroy the culprits. That is why I fight for the concept of rights that is beneficial. ...which would destroy the culprits, but that destruction is not the point; the point is to establish the good, not to destroy the bad.
If you wonder what's wrong with America or whatever country you live in; if you wonder what's wrong with the world at large and what allows the ... psychosis that seems to run everything; if you see the corruption that is everywhere and pervades everything that almost any government and many other power structure members do, think of this post, please.
Think about life, liberty and property and how assuring that those rights of each of us are protected equally can benefit humanity and its habitat... and your and my and our peace of mind ... and you will awaken, and you can awaken others. And we can fight together for our mutual benefit.