Trust us: we were as surprised as you to see a Dr. Seuss book sporting "Rules and Order" as a theme. Is this not the writer who broke all the rules with the thinks he thought? True, but let's remember that even the Cat in the Hat had to clean up the house, so rules have always had their (marginal?) place in Seuss's seemingly chaotic worlds. And Bartholomew's adventure in The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins is no different.
On the one hand, we have Dr. Seuss seemingly poking fun at rules. The King's law that hats must be removed in his presence is silly, and the lengths he'll endure to enforce said law multiples the absurdity. On the other hand, all the characters follow the rules to the dotted i and crossed t—even Bartholomew. The only character to step out of line, one Wilfred by name, receives a royal spanking. Rules: can't live with them, don't want to get spanked for breaking them.
Q: So… are the rules good or bad?
A: Some are good, some are bad, but most of the rules in the Kingdom of Didd are just crazy.
Q: Should I obey the rules like Bartholomew Cubbins does?
A: You should obey the ones meant to keep you safe and do right by others. I wouldn't expect you to walk to your own execution, but maybe I'm a softy.
Q: Why did Wilfred break the rules?
A: Because he wanted to see Bartholomew punished. Rules don't—well shouldn't—simply exist to make your life better. Wilfred doesn't understand that.