1 - Origins
The transmission of knowledge and the principle of standardization
have existed since humanity's beginning: Archaeology proves that
primitive human groups adopted the working methods they
considered the best to fabricate their tools and habitats and were
organized to transmit their knowledge. That has resulted in constant
technical progress, which historians and archaeologists categorize
as significant progress eras, such as the stone, bronze, and iron
ages. However, these periods were also characterized by a
flourishing of different cultures having particular use of the
available technologies that have resulted in what we commonly call
civilizations. This succession and diversity of civilizations have been
the motor of progress, with discoveries and technologies from a
particular human group being adopted by others who then
developed these concepts according to their way of life, which gave
rise to other discoveries and inventions, and this continuously. Thus
history proves to us that the future of humanity is in its diversity
and not in a uniform civilization.
Based on what is said above, and opposite to some beliefs, we can
see that the principle of standardization, which purpose is to issue
technical specifications to ensure that materials, products,
processes, services, systems, or persons are fit for their intended
purpose, was not invented at the beginning of what is commonly
called the "industrialization era" during the 19th century, but a long
time ago. For example, the Xi'an tomb in China confirms that the
armies of the Qin emperor (259–210 BC) were already equipped
with standardized equipment far before the roman empire era (see
the image below). During the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD),
officials designed standard civil service exams to choose people to
work in the government based on merit rather than family status.
Also, the sculptures of the Trajan emperor (53 -117 AC) column in
Rome (see here) proves that the soldiers of the Roman empire had
fully standardized equipment. Again in China, during the Song
dynasty (960 AD - 1279 AD), silk production was organized
according to strict norms controlled by the imperial government.
2 - About national and international standards and
Even though the example above proves that standards and
transmission of these have existed since the beginning of humanity,
we need to recognize that the current era has put in place
structures for creating and implementing international standards to
fulfill the need for increasing exchanges worldwide. As a result, a lot
of devices are today built according to established requirements to
offer the same service and level of safety throughout the globe.
However, international standards do not entirely replace national
ones, as to protect their citizens, governments also publish the
standards and norms applicable in their country. Also, to protect
people producing goods from abusive and unsafe working
conditions, governments publish laws that indicate the minimum
level of protection required. Depending on the country, these laws
can be emitted in the form of acts, decrees, work regulations, codes
of practice, national standards, etc. For convenience, we can call
them “working laws”. Some of these laws have been adopted
worldwide through the various instruments of the United Nations,
such as, but not limited to, the International Labour Organization
However, adopting international laws is a long process that, in the
end, requires the signature of the states applying them. Thus, a
state is not engaged in implementing an international law it has not
signed. For these reasons, in parallel with the laws emitted by
States, companies involved in industrial or construction activities
have issued their own working practices that are based on the laws
of the states and their experience. These working practices are
sometimes shared through structures such as professional
associations or similar organizations that defend their interests and
are usually called "guidelines". These professional organizations also
act as pressure groups on states to impose their point of view. For a
better understanding, we need to make a distinction between
standards, working laws, and guidelines:
As said above, the purpose of standards is to issue technical
specifications to ensure that materials, products, processes,
services, systems, or persons are fit for their intended
Standards are also called "Norms". Legal specialists say that
even though their purpose is the same, their process is
different: A norm can be described as a set of rules resulting
from a consensus of experts, and a standard is the
harmonization of technical characteristics and construction
processes, not necessarily based on a consensus. However,
despite this difference, the two words are often used for the
Standards and Norms are issued by states or specific
organizations depending on them, usually called "national
standardization bodies". For example, the Swiss Association for
Standardization (SNV), British Standards Institution (BSI),
American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the "Association
francaise de normalization" (French association for
normalization -AFNOR), the Thai Industrial Institute (Thailand),
and many others. Organizations emitting standards & norms
can group an ensemble of states. It is the case of the European
Standards (EN), also called European Norms. These documents
are published by one of the three following organizations: the
European Committee for Standardization (CEN), the European
Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC), or the
European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). These
organizations depend on the states of the European community
and the associated members. Another example of an
organization that depends on states is the International
Organization for Standardization, better known under the
acronym ISO, which is presented as an independent, non-
governmental international organization with a membership of
167 "national standards bodies". However, as the national
standards bodies are appointed by their governments, we can
imagine that these governments can influence ISO through
their appointed standardization bodies.
As already said, national working laws are rules whose
implementation is mandatory in the country they are published.
Depending on the country, they can have various forms, such
- Acts: Bills that the legislature votes on.
- Decrees: A formal and authoritative order from a
government having the force of law.
- Work regulations: Rules or directives made and maintained
by the authorities.
- Codes of practices: Ensembles of regulations that
complement laws to explain how to comply with them.
- National standards: Mandatory procedures approved by
the government for the operations they are designed for.
According to the Cambridge dictionary, “guidelines” are
“information intended to advise people on how something should
be done or what something should be”.
Guidelines can be emitted by all types of organizations and also
individual authors and are not binding. Therefore, it is not
mandatory to follow a guideline that the government has not
emitted or approved.
Based on the fact that only states and organizations appointed
by states can emit laws and standards, professional
organizations are obliged to publish their point of view through
guidelines only. However, some of these organizations consider
or want to impose their guidelines as standards. For this reason,
depending on their policy, they convince or oblige their
members to include their guidelines, which they sometimes
incorrectly call “standards”, in their working practices. However,
as said previously, there is legally no obligation to apply such
guidelines, so their implementation ultimately depends on the
company. We must, however, consider that in case of an
accident, the authorities of the country and the judge in charge,
if the persons responsible for the undesirable event are sent to
court, can ask why policies covering the activities that resulted
in the accident were not implemented. Thus, even though it is
not mandatory to implement an organization's guidelines, it is
highly recommended to provide at least equivalent procedures
adapted to the company's needs.
It must be noted that guidelines from organizations are often
adopted by states and, thus, become standards.
3 - About ethical standards, laws, and guidelines
Based on the above, we can say that the idea of standards comes
from the positive thought to improve people's living and working
conditions, which can be deviated for the profit of only a few people.
Thus, we can define "ethical" standards, laws, and guidelines as
documents describing procedures that aim to protect people without
the intention of making a profit, imposing an ideology, or favouring a
community to the detriment of others.
To define a community and its interests, we can refer to the
description from Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), who said: "The
community is a fictitious body composed of the individual persons
who are considered as constituting as it were its members. The
interest of the community then is the sum of the interests of the
several members who compose it".
4 - About the deviation of standards, laws, and
It must be noted that despite the positive mint of the people creating
them, the relevance of ethical standards, laws, and guidelines to
their purpose can be inappropriate. History and current working
practices show us that many standards were or are unsuitable for
the activities they are supposed to cover or are suitable for only a
fraction of people. This can be due to an inappropriate evaluation of
the problem, but also because the team has been intoxicated by
various forms of external interventions. Regarding such issues,
history shows us that working and commercial practices can be
deliberately imposed by some unethical pressure groups on the
members of their organization, governments, their contractors, and
their clients to eliminate challengers, impose their ideology, be in a
monopolistic position, and thus be in a situation where they can
increase their profits without opposition.
These unethical groups do not hesitate to “buy” scientists, politicians,
civil servants, other organizations, and the press, where they display
their propaganda to reach their targets. Thus, such organizations
often create what is commonly called an influence peddling or a
mafia system. The guidelines they emit and also, when they obtain
their publication, their standards, can be called "unethical" as they
aim to be profitable for only a few people to the detriment of others.
A historical example of such practices is the story of the “robber
barons”, a pejorative term that describes 19th century American
industrialists and financiers who made fortunes by monopolizing
huge industries through the formation of trusts, engaging in
controversial business practices, exploiting workers (Refer to the
song “sixteen tons”), practicing lobbying at large scale, and
physically attacking their competitors and opponents if the methods
mentioned above did not work as expected.
The propaganda from such groups of influence is usually based on
fallacious arguments that are particularly refined and usually
employed very intelligently so that they can attract honest people.
The list of fallacious arguments they use is without end. However,
we can retain the following:
With this method of reasoning, the proposition is supported by
the premises, which is supported by the proposition, creating a
circle in reasoning where no useful information is shared. In
other words: X is true because of Y, and Y is true because of X.
Argumentation based on a dogma:
A dogmatism argument is based on a given belief, dogma, or
doctrine. In other words, dogmatism treats something as true
without question or allowance for conversation. This
argumentation is commonly used with circular reasoning.
A personal attack consists in refuting a logical argument by
attacking the intelligence, professional qualifications, morals, and
education of the person emitting it.
Affective influence is based on the fact that emotions, urges, or
feelings are innate and self-validating. Therefore the ability to
analyze and critique is diminished. A common practice to
influence people through this method is to provide them with a
sad history or shocking photos and use the emotional reaction to
impose procedures that are the opposite of what is needed in
the industry considered and against the interest of the person
approving them under the shock created by the story or the
dramatic picture. Politicians frequently use this method.
Information Pollution is the contamination of information with
irrelevant, redundant, unsolicited, hampering, and low-value
news or documents.
Hasty generalization is a fallacious argument by generalization
that consists of drawing a broad conclusion from a small
number of unrepresentative cases. Fallacious arguments by
generalization are often used by self-proclaimed scientists or
scientists who aim to make the ideology or practices of an
unethical pressure group admitted. Of course, politicians also
regularly use such arguments.
Argument from ignorance:
Argument from ignorance, also called “appeal to ignorance”
consists of arguing that a proposition must be true because it
has not been proven false.
Appeal to authority:
Appeal to authority is misusing an authority's opinion to support
an argument by using a statement made by the mentioned
authority that is out of date or reported in a biased manner.
Argument from authority:
Argument From Authority is the claim that the person or the
organization taken as reference is an expert and so should be
trusted. Note that the expression “X provides the best practices”
is an argument from Authority, thus pure propaganda. The
reason is that nothing proves that X provides the best practices
because someone else may have better ideas.
Appeal to flattery (appeal to vanity):
Appeal to flattery consists of complimenting a person to obtain
his approbation of the ideology, approach, guideline, or standard
A false dilemma is a manipulative procedure that aims to
polarize the audience to promote a philosophy, approach, or
guidelines by demonizing others. For example, politicians
commonly use it to strong-arm the public into supporting
controversial legislation or policies. This method is also widely
used by organizations trying to impose guidelines. For these
cases, a strategy often applied successfully involves
highlighting the word "safety" so that opponents of the proposed
policy are automatically classified as "unsafe people". Thus, they
become enemies to eliminate without discussion.
Appeal to Closure:
Appeal to Closure means that an argument, standpoint, action, or
conclusion must be accepted, no matter how questionable the
point is, and will remain unsettled. In other words: X is found
suspicious, and despite this, it must be accepted. This strategy
is often used by persons with authority without the necessary
knowledge to exercise their position. It is, of course, commonly
used to impose a guideline.
Straw man argument:
A straw man argument consists in moving the discussion to a
different subject rather than the topic being discussed. This
strategy is commonly used by people who are uncomfortable
with the issue discussed. It is often a complement of the
“appeal to closure” described above.
Depending on the target, fallacious arguments are used separately
or together to elaborate a suitable strategy to erase all forms of
reasoning and, thus, opposition.
Among the increasingly used strategies, I need to highlight what we
can call the "Infantilization strategy", which is a form of conditioning
that consists of disabling a community's capacity to think by
gradually downgrading it to a level equal to the reasoning of young
kids. Several methods are used to obtain the desired result, for
example, the multiplication of mandatory pseudo formations with
exams where the questions are at the level of a kid and the
employees conditioned using the fallacious reasonings described
above, the organization of safety and productivity awards with
teeshirts or other presents offered to the winners (It is similar to
what you do to condition an animal), the implementation of a blame
culture with investigations of undesirable events systemically
charged against the employees involved, the use of vexation
measures against people similar to those used for undisciplined
kids, and many others.
Note that even though "Infantilization" is increasingly used, it is not a
new strategy: It was massively employed by the robber barons and
many leaders to control people, and so was described by many 19th
and 20th centuries novelists. It can be illustrated by the description
of Merle Travis, the author of the previously mentioned song Sixteen
tons: "A man is made of muscle and blood, a mind that's weak and a
back that's strong".
It is commonly said that unethical influencing groups are composed
of powerful financial or industrial establishments. However, these
influencing groups can also be merely the employees of
organizations in a dominant position emitting guidelines or
standards. The purpose, in this case, is to secure their place and
organize for comfortable incomes. Another reason aside from the
comfortable salaries is what we commonly call the drunkenness of
power, which can be considered a symptom of megalomania, a
narcissistic personality disorder that is characterized by complex
symptoms, among which:
An unstoppable need for power and glory.
A manipulative behaviour to get to positions of power.
A self-attribution of abilities.
A conceited and arrogant behaviour.
The non-acceptance of personal mistakes.
The rejection of ideas from others or the need to self-attribute
Based on the above, we can consider that many of the unethical
pressure groups described above show collective megalomaniac
symptoms. It is, of course, not the purpose of this post to determine
which degree of megalomania these people have; this is a
psychoanalyze problem that requires to be evaluated by doctors.
Also, we are all plus or minus narcissistic, as this is part of what
the safety specialists call “self-esteem”. However, we can highlight
troubling facts commonly attributed to such disorders and
remember that history says that some leaders affected by such
conditions were the source of catastrophic events.
To maintain their dominant position, a strategy used by such
unethical pressure groups is to increase their production of
guidelines, even though some are unnecessary and poorly written;
the aim is not to produce valuable documents but to drown people
under numerous rules (Information pollution), in other words, to
become unavoidable and increase their pressure on governments to
push them to publish standards that are more in line with what they
want. If they succeed, that may result in a system based only on
paperwork and political considerations, producing standards and
guidelines that may conflict with the previously established rules
and not being welcomed by the people to whom they are imposed.
Thus, regulations whose implementation is complex, as it may
become evident to the people to whom they are imposed that their
purpose is to control them instead of helping them. Consequently,
people are no longer confident in laws, have trends to use
undeclared inconsistent procedures, and the safety level is
To conclude with the above, inappropriate standards imposed on a
community will give rise to a monoculture based on what is
commonly called circular reasoning (see above), resulting in the
absence of questioning regarding the appropriateness of the
procedures imposed, which undoubtedly will trigger decadence
because the solutions proposed do not answer to the needs of the
majority of people but allow a small fraction of a population to be in
upper positions enabling them to control the others for their profit.
Therefore, the system will collapse due to its lack of adaptation to
unplanned situations and the community's well-being.
By comparison, we can say that brilliant civilizations have
disappeared because they gradually became mono-cultural
narcissistic worlds. As already noted in the introduction of this post,
history proves to us that the future of humanity is in its diversity
and not in a uniform civilization.
It must be noted that many states have emitted laws to prevent the
situations mentioned above (Notably antitrust laws). However,
implementing such limitations is difficult or even impossible to
control organizations operating internationally.
An element favouring the influence of the unethical pressure
groups previously mentioned is often the states' lack of interest in
the domain considered. This lack of interest can be due to a lack of
resources, a lack of civil servants with proper formation, and a lack
of structures to be in contact with the people involved in the
activities considered. Hence, a state disconnected from reality,
underestimating how strategic the activity domain can be for the
country. Also note that sometimes, it may be only due to complacent
Thus, at the discharge of these pressure groups, when countries
are without proper upper ruling authority, these organizations are
tempted to crush everything to increase and secure their profits,
even though their methods are unethical. It has been a long time
since it has been recognized that without a powerful state
administration, the market quickly becomes a kind of jungle ruled
by the most influential actors to the detriment of others.
In addition to the above, another reason unethical groups of interest
impose their point of view is the lack of structured opposition. Thus
on one side, we have people well organized, trained in all sorts of
manipulations, and motivated to reach their objective. On the other
side, we often find individuals and small companies proceeding
separately, with some of them ready to satisfy the craziest desire
of their clients. That results in these companies and individuals not
being considered representative by the authorities, who will have the
temptation to follow the suggestions of the unethical organizations
that, despite having no legal and scientific references, often present
themselves as experts by using the fallacy strategies already
5 - About prohibitive prices
Another problem with some national and international standards is
their prohibitive costs and the fact that they are sold through
resellers making profits from these activities. Thus, instead of
being tools that protect everyone, standards become a business !
There is no problem with such practices as long the documents in
question are private organizations' guidelines that are not imposed
on citizens or in bidding processes.
However, this is far from being ethical when these documents are
standards from organizations depending on governments, and the
practices they describe are made mandatory. Considering that
standards are laws and that everyone should have an equal status
regarding the law, poor and rich people should have equal access to
legal documents. We can call that the “principle of equality and
fraternity”; without them, what some people call “democracy”
becomes a vast mystification. Governments must be aware that
their primary function is the protection of all their citizens. Also, not
helping poor people is perhaps losing genius scientists or
Some may say, "We need to pay the people writing these standards".
Regarding this, my answer is that I have published guidelines and
manuals free of charge for over six years, some of which required
more than two years of conception full-time with 16 hours/day of
work. Also, most scientific documents stored in our data bank have
requested similar investments to their authors and are also
published free of charge, which is why you can download them
without paying fees. Thus, the argument that standards must be
sold at high prices because the writers must be paid is definitively
fallacious because these organizations have budgets assigned by
states for that.
Read the continuation on the next page
Xi'an tomb in China
Pejorative cartoon on the “robber barons”