When the deck behind our house began caving in, I knew its repair would exceed my abilities. So I made some calls, got some bids, and picked a builder to construct a new deck.
Once the contractor was done, I took a close look at his work and noticed some problems. Seeking a second opinion, I called the local building inspector and got a surprise. The deck guy had not obtained a building permit. Working without official oversight, he had violated many points of the building code.
This incident reminded me of an important truth (other than asking to see the building permit): We often do less than our best if we don’t have any accountability to the authority over us.