Did the Right Make America a Lawsuit Nation?: Thomas Geoghegan's See You in Court
Theodore H. Frank
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Texas Review of Law & Politics, Vol. 12, p. 477, 2008
Thomas Geoghegan's See You in Court: How the Right Made America a Lawsuit Nation? takes the unusual tack of acknowledging that the litigation explosion is a bad development for America, but blaming it on policies of the right wing. Deregulation, deunionization, and the right's putative dismantling of the legal system and Rule of Law, Geoghegan argues, have driven Americans to the courts by cutting off alternative routes to social justice. Geoghegan effectively demonstrates that the Left should view skeptically the claims of the litigation lobby. But Geoghegan's attempt to blame conservatives for the increased role of litigation in society suffers from non sequiturs, self-contradictory arguments, and a general failure to engage his opponents' arguments fairly.
Section I of this review examines Geoghegan's thesis. It finds that Geoghegan defines and applies his core values - the Rule of Law; valuing democracy over decision-making by elites; recognizing the value of contracts - inconsistently and without providing any framework for determining when these principles should yield to other concerns. It further finds that Geoghegan provides no evidence for his claim that deunionization and deregulation caused the problems he describes in the legal system.
Section II describes and analyzes Geoghegan's most costly economic and factual errors. Many of his arguments are based on false premises or faulty economic reasoning. In particular, Geoghegan's lengthy indictment of the Federalist Society is central to his attack on the Right but is riddled with mistakes and unfair rhetoric.
Section III explores Geoghegan's more thoughtful critique of the role of litigation in American society. Though Geoghegan makes some inconsistent claims on this subject as well, he effectively critiques the Left's support of litigation as a means of achieving social change.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 42
Keywords: Geoghegan, tort reform, unionization, rule of law, Federalist Society, deregulation, medical malpractice, income mobility, income inequality, mandatory arbitration
JEL Classification: I39, J58, J78, K31, K41
Date posted: November 28, 2007 ; Last revised: August 31, 2009