Metarules are the rules about the rules.

They might sound pretty arcane, but they are enormously powerful (and often unseen) influences on the way things work.

Once you start looking for them, examples are everywhere:

  • The currency in which money is borrowed or paid
  • The idea that sticker price is the (non-negotiable) price
  • Direct election of senators (which has only been fully in place for a century)
  • How electoral districts are drawn
  • Rules of evidence and procedure
  • Etc.

You might think you know how a trial works, for example, but that’s only true under consistent metatrules.

When it’s possible to make or remake the rules about the rules, it’s Calvinball out there.