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The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America


The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America Cover

ISBN13: 9780446672283
ISBN10: 0446672289
Condition: Standard
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Publisher Comments:

This concise and eloquent manifesto shows how the excess of government regulations does not protect Americans but instead acts as legal quicksand, stifling growth and creating paralyzing overbureaucratization. Using blood-boiling examples of government regulations run amok, Howard reveals a society in which rules have replaced thinking--allowing law to infiltrate the nooks and crannies of everyday life.


Includes bibliographical references (p. [195]-206) and index.

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prentisentina, September 22, 2011 (view all comments by prentisentina)
This little book is way more interesting and easier to read than I expected of a nonfiction expose. Philip K. Howard, a lawyer, explains with vivid examples the ways that laws have become oppressive, costly, defeating of their original purposes, and used to give "rights" to small groups while removing them from much larger groups and to slow down and even prevent businesses from functioning, even though the regulations used to persecute these businesses have nothing to do with safety of any kind. There are so many rules within the laws that nobody has the authority to overrule them or take responsibility for completing worthwhile projects, such as housing for the homeless. Safety rules for business are "almost perfect in {their} failure: ... maximized the cost ... while minimizing the benefit to the public."

The United States now has "a legal colossus unprecedented in the history of civilization, with legal dictates numbering in the millions of words and growing larger every day. Our regulatory system has become an instruction manual. It tells us and bureaucrats exactly what to do and how to do it," with no room for intelligent consideration of individual situations and a whole system frozen by inflexible and poorly conceived rules that hinder problem solving of any kind. "Modern law ... has shut out our humanity." Judges are forced to impose Draconian sentences, no matter how minor the offense or how variable the circumstances, with no judgment of their own allowed.

OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, spends billions of dollars a year to harass businesses with absolutely no relationship to health or safety. There are so many meaningless and detailed rules, that "violations" can always be found, and that is what keeps OSHA employees in their jobs.

Our educational system is "obsessed with its potential failures, to the detriment of its potential successes."

The way of our legal system is "to treat every citizen as a crook and impose an elaborate, mind-numbing, and demeaning ritual on every motion."

By pretending that [detailed rule and laws] will get rid of corruption, we have succeeded only in humiliating honest people and provided a cover of darkness and complexity for the bad people... the details will always provide loopholes."

Howard's solutions involve returning to a simpler legal system based on the original Constitution, with its acceptance of human foibles and imperfections, and with its fewer rules, thereby making the completion of major projects, such as economic, social, medical, environmental, and educational ones, possible. Although the book promises that it "points to solutions," that is clearly more easily said than done.
Even Howard, as clearly as he sees the situation, cannot promise that it can be achieved; it would require undoing hundreds of years of development to this point.

Still, it is helpful to understand why we feel so overpowered and frustrated -- we don't need anti-depressants or other legal drugs to help us live with the insanity pushed on us by the law and rule-writers; instead, we need to see clearly what is happening and embrace our own voices and personal power. Howard gives some good examples of how this can be done, and gives us hope.

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Product Details

Howard, Philip K.
Warner Books (NY)
Howard, Phillip K
Howard, Philip K.
New York, NY :
U.S. Government
Legal System
Law reform
Common sense
Government - U.S. Government
Law -- United States.
Bureaucracy -- United States.
Politics-United States Politics
Crime-Enforcement and Investigation
General Social Science
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
8.30x5.29x.65 in. .43 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Business » Business Law
History and Social Science » Crime » Enforcement and Investigation
History and Social Science » Law » General
History and Social Science » Law » Legal Guides and Reference
History and Social Science » Sociology » General

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