Book Review of Philip K. Howard, Life Without Lawyers: Restoring Responsibility in America
American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 51, p. 387, 2012
2 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2010 Last revised: 15 Oct 2012
Date Written: August 31, 2012
Contrary to its title, Philip K. Howard’s Life Without Lawyers is not an anti-lawyer screed. It does not argue for a society without lawyers and suggests only in passing that America has too many lawyers. A more apt title would be “Life Without Rules” or maybe “Life Without Law.”
Howard argues that America’s enormous inventory of laws and bureaucratic rules is crippling society by making it impossible for people and institutions to do their jobs effectively. In his opinion, the primary reason is because they live in fear of potential legal consequences. He asserts that the rights-explosion of the 1960s has led to a rights-obsessed, risk-averse culture that overvalues individual rights to the detriment of broader communitarian interests.
His principal solution is to grant judges and administrators more discretion to make decisions without the necessity of having a legally supportable record to back up their decisions.
McClurg’s review contains some critique, but concludes overall that Howard’s book is a powerful one that is worth reading.
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