Monday, March 9, 2009

First, shoot all the lawyers

When Shakespeare said “kill all the lawyers,” some argue that it was a dramatic device to suggest a loss of lawyers would lead to lawlessness and anarchy.

Instead, in a development unimaginable to the old Bard, our proliferation of lawyers and legal excesses have brough a different form of societal destruction: the destruction of accountability masquerading as hyper-accountability.

From his column Monday (“The Supreme Court and the Tyranny of Lawyers”) I quote one excerpt (emphasis mine) from Gordon Crovitz of the WSJ:

As legal reformer Philip Howard has pointed out, one reason for excesses in the legal system is that what worked in the Industrial Age no longer works in our less standardized era. "The idea of organizing how to do things," Mr. Howard wrote in his recent book, "Life Without Lawyers," grew out of the need to set up assembly lines and to regulate complex systems and industries.

But "today we assume unquestioningly that any activity will be more effective if we detail in advance how to get the job done." Mr. Howard also noted that lowered standards for litigation mean that people are now more free to sue.

"These two great currents of social organization -- prescribing rules to specify how to do things and affording individual rights to invoke a legal proceeding -- now sweep us along through our day like a mighty river, causing us to cling to legal logic for ordinary daily choices," he wrote. "To stay afloat, we must constantly be prepared to answer this question: Can you show this was done properly?"

Instead of risk-taking and personal accountability, we have what Mr. Howard called a "moving mudbank comprised of accumulating bureaucracy and whatever claims people unilaterally choose to assert."

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