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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“We need
a new idea of how to govern. The current system is broken. Law is
supposed to be a framework for humans to make choices, not the
replacement for free choice.” So notes Philip K. Howard in the new
Afterword to his explosive manifesto The Death of Common Sense.
Here Howard offers nothing less than a fresh, lucid, practical operating
system for modern democracy. America is drowning—in law,
lawsuits, and nearly endless red tape. Before acting or making a
decision, we often abandon our best instincts. We pause, we worry, we
equivocate, and then we divert our energy into trying to protect
ourselves. Filled with one too many examples of bureaucratic overreach,
The Death of Common Sense demonstrates how we—and our
country—can at last get back on track.


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Reviews for The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America:

5

Mar 01, 2013

As I read this book, I nodded my head along with the author’s points on almost every page. He describes specific examples of the red tape and bureaucratic insanity we have all experienced firsthand throughout our lives. Though it is somewhat a depressing read, considering that bureaucracy and paperwork have increased by an order of magnitude since this edition was published two decades ago, it was worth picking up anyway. For a book focused on webs of laws and bureaucrats, it was a surprisingly As I read this book, I nodded my head along with the author’s points on almost every page. He describes specific examples of the red tape and bureaucratic insanity we have all experienced firsthand throughout our lives. Though it is somewhat a depressing read, considering that bureaucracy and paperwork have increased by an order of magnitude since this edition was published two decades ago, it was worth picking up anyway. For a book focused on webs of laws and bureaucrats, it was a surprisingly smooth read. My only major criticism is that the author was long on problems and short on practical and specific solutions.

I came across this book the old fashioned way. I pulled it off the shelf while browsing my local library, which is why I read the 1994 edition rather than the more recent version. Howard pulls example after example out of the darkness of overstuffed file cabinets and into the light. He shows plain the tyranny of a government which has grown so burdened by regulation that it staggers under its own weight. The immovability of bureaucracy and process which were intended to make government fairer have had the opposite of the intended effect, and instead have astronomical time and productivity costs which harm both individuals with a direct stake and the public at large.
Howard puts a name to many of the frustrations we all have with government but never thought about the root cause or full extent of the problems. Whether you work for the government yourself, you have a child in public schools, or you simply want to register your car or use public transportation, you are affected by suffocating laws and the regulations which stem from them.

We all continue to face the immovable monolith of government, and as described by Philip K. Howard in The Death of Common Sense, the obstructions and senselessness of the modern U.S. Government, from the federal down to the municipal level, affect each one of us in more ways that we have ever imagined.
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5

Jan 10, 2009

I know that this book looks like it would be mind-numbingly boring but it is actually a great read and only takes a few hours. If all of the stories weren't frustratingly true then this could be comedy. This book makes a journey through government regulation that is supposed to save us from ourselves but instead makes government the masters of us, shackled by either bureaucratic stupidity or power trips. For example, in NYC the city government sold two buildings, abandoned after being gutted by I know that this book looks like it would be mind-numbingly boring but it is actually a great read and only takes a few hours. If all of the stories weren't frustratingly true then this could be comedy. This book makes a journey through government regulation that is supposed to save us from ourselves but instead makes government the masters of us, shackled by either bureaucratic stupidity or power trips. For example, in NYC the city government sold two buildings, abandoned after being gutted by fire and sitting for years, to a Catholic charity for $1 each, after which the church spent over $500,000 renovating the buildings and turning it into a shelter that would take 64 homeless men off the street, give them a clean room and job training so that they can re-enter society as productive members. After two years a building inspector told them that because the building code requires all renovated multi-story buildings to have an elevator, they must either install one (at a cost of $100,000 to them) or shut the building down. Not having the money to do that, the building was shut down and the men put back on the street. This short book does a perfect job of showing us why we have to regain control of a tyrannical government. ...more
3

Jul 24, 2007

This is one of those books written from the modern American conservative viewpoint that does a very good job of opening the reader's eyes to a serious problem caused by modern statism, but whose solutions are problematic. The author argues that America is choking on legalistic bureaucracy run amok, a legalism that is sapping the ability of government to actually do anything. His solution is to say that government officials and employees should be allowed more flexibility to make decisions using This is one of those books written from the modern American conservative viewpoint that does a very good job of opening the reader's eyes to a serious problem caused by modern statism, but whose solutions are problematic. The author argues that America is choking on legalistic bureaucracy run amok, a legalism that is sapping the ability of government to actually do anything. His solution is to say that government officials and employees should be allowed more flexibility to make decisions using their own judgement. I agree with him about the problem, but think the solution is wrong. American government was traditionally a government of laws, not men, meaning that government agents were allowed to act only as the law authorized them to. This was intended to be a defense of liberty, because it prevented goverment officials from exercising arbitrary power. However, this system can only work when government is quite limited in the functions it performs. What has been happening since the time of Roosevelt is that government has been rapidly expanding its role in society, involving itself in more and more areas of life. The current choking legalism is a result of this expansion of government combined with an attempt to retain the government of laws approach. Howard's solution is essentially to say that we should relax the requirement of having a government of laws. Instead he prefers to allow goverment officials to have more latitude in exercising their powers. To my mind this is exactly the wrong answer. The answer is not to allow officials more freedom to exercise arbitrary power, it should be to roll back the powers of government. But like most modern conservatives, Howard seems to have abandoned or forgotten the old conservative principle of limited government, and instead seeks only to make the modern statist state more efficient. ...more
4

May 02, 2011

This is the first book in a long time that has really challenged my beliefs. Howard shows with clarity how we need smarter regulations, not more or less regulation. His call to bring back law as guiding principle rather than rule book or manual resonated with me. Government employees can't act in the best interest of the people if their hands are tied by legal processes that don't make any sense in most circumstances. I had a hard time with his take on rights, but in the end this is where he This is the first book in a long time that has really challenged my beliefs. Howard shows with clarity how we need smarter regulations, not more or less regulation. His call to bring back law as guiding principle rather than rule book or manual resonated with me. Government employees can't act in the best interest of the people if their hands are tied by legal processes that don't make any sense in most circumstances. I had a hard time with his take on rights, but in the end this is where he really changed my thinking. Now I'm interested to explore better ways to deal with inequality and social problems than inventing open-ended rights. On one hand I don't think Jim Crow would have ever ended in the South without government intervention, on the other I can see where open-ended rights creates another kind of tyranny, insanity, and maybe doesn't address the original problem so well to begin with. ...more
5

Jan 23, 2016

Great book and I am going to read it again, because the information is just as relevant today as it was a few years ago.
5

Mar 18, 2017

One of many favorite quotes from the book:

"By exiling human judgment in the last few decades, modern law changed its role from useful tool to brainless tyrant"

I agreed with so much in this book. It points to much of what is wrong in America today.
4

Mar 14, 2019

A sad but true commentary on the decay of the American system of laws.
3

Jul 25, 2011

I had much higher hopes for this book but it was solid nonetheless. I found myself thinking that the anecdotes, while interesting (and appalling) may be the proverbial trees that are keeping me from really seeing the forest. I can't tell if his examples are truly indicative of what is really going on out there. I am also not certain that people are as susceptible to accountability as Howard suggests. While there is much to be said about over-regulation, there is also, I suspect, much to be said I had much higher hopes for this book but it was solid nonetheless. I found myself thinking that the anecdotes, while interesting (and appalling) may be the proverbial trees that are keeping me from really seeing the forest. I can't tell if his examples are truly indicative of what is really going on out there. I am also not certain that people are as susceptible to accountability as Howard suggests. While there is much to be said about over-regulation, there is also, I suspect, much to be said about under-regulation as well. There are probably many instances in which well-meaning government overdoes it but government allowing industries to act in the most reasonable way sounds an awful lot like what created the mess on Wall Street. Read on and make up your own mind. ...more
2

Nov 04, 2011

I was very interested in reading this book after seeing the author on The Daily Show. Surprise surprise, a book about the perils of bureaucracy can be a bit dry. I found Howard's thesis compelling and am totally on board with his call for a new age of responsibility. However, I found this text long on problems and short on solutions. Example after example of bloated inefficiencies in government eventually had me saying "get to the point already!" When Howard finally does start proposing I was very interested in reading this book after seeing the author on The Daily Show. Surprise surprise, a book about the perils of bureaucracy can be a bit dry. I found Howard's thesis compelling and am totally on board with his call for a new age of responsibility. However, I found this text long on problems and short on solutions. Example after example of bloated inefficiencies in government eventually had me saying "get to the point already!" When Howard finally does start proposing solutions I found them very broad. Still, if everybody in this country took the time to read this book and understand how our legal system is bogging everything down, perhaps change would be possible. These are important ideas, so be a good reader and take your medicine. ...more
5

Aug 05, 2017

This short book should be required reading for anyone seeking to enter politics or government service. The author, Philip K. Howard, is a practicing attorney in New York City. He argues that American administrative law is strangling the country and its economy, and must be radically reformed to allow us to re-insert common sense into the system.

Howard identifies three specific ways in which administrative law acts to banish common sense. First, comprehensive regulatory schemes often sound good This short book should be required reading for anyone seeking to enter politics or government service. The author, Philip K. Howard, is a practicing attorney in New York City. He argues that American administrative law is strangling the country and its economy, and must be radically reformed to allow us to re-insert common sense into the system.

Howard identifies three specific ways in which administrative law acts to banish common sense. First, comprehensive regulatory schemes often sound good in the abstract, but make little sense in the real world. Nevertheless, these regulations must be obeyed, no matter how pointless, unrealistic, or expensive they may be as applied to concrete circumstances. Second, in an effort to ensure every decision is perfectly fair, endless layers of study, review, and appeal have been created. As a result, it can take several years for a city to issue a relatively simple contract, and the permitting process for major projects often takes decades. Costs continue to mount throughout the process, and sometimes the effect of the delay is to ensure nothing at all gets done, even though no one would consciously choose that alternative. Third, many government benefits have been turned into "rights." These rights often conflict with the rights of others, and provide endless opportunities for accusations, litigation, and delay. The basic individual rights recognized under the United States Constitution - due process, equal protection under the law, freedom of speech and religion, protection of private property, and the like - certainly have an important place. Indeed, the American legal system would not be recognizable without them. However, when the government declares the power to require the government to provide something, or worse yet, the power to require another private person to provide something, to be a "right," litigation, bitterness, and skyrocketing costs are the almost inevitable results. This is so regardless of whether the "right" in question is the right to receive welfare, the right to force the owner of a building to make expensive alterations required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, or almost anything else.

The government also acts to destroy common sense in other ways. Most prominently, some government regulations are so overambitious - so long, complicated, and internally contradictory - that they are virtually impossible to understand, let alone apply. For example, the Sarbanes-Oxley financial reform statute, together with its implementing regulations, is over fifteen times the length of War and Peace. No one with an actual job to perform can be expected to devote the time needed to study and understand this monstrosity while still performing his or her regular duties. Similarly, the Obamacare statute is over 1,000 pages in length - longer than Anna Karenina. It seeks to re-shape the entire medical business - nearly one-fifth of the economy - and much of its language is poorly drafted and internally contradictory. It should surprise no one that Obamacare has not delivered on any of the promises made by its backers.

Howard states his objective is not to argue for or against shrinking the scale of government. It is clear, however, that legislators and bureaucrats need to approach their tasks with a degree of humility often forgotten in the past. Legislators and regulators must realize they cannot successfully micro-manage life by imposing comprehensive, top-down laws and regulations. As Howard points out, the result of this conceit often is to require people at the ground level to check their common sense at the door. Once government gets involved in a subject, the responsible individuals must be empowered to make decisions, and held accountable for their actions. Although Howard does not acknowledge the point, since one of his prescriptions is to reduce the role of judicial and quasi-judicial review in day-to-day decisions, the government also must stay strictly within Constitutional bounds (as well as avoid creating new "rights") to avoid triggering such involvement. In this way, Howard's argument does require the government to shrink in scope.

Howard's argument is persuasive and well illustrated with countless real-world examples. Like I said at the top, this book should be required reading for anyone seeking to enter politics or government service. It is equally valuable for those who seek simply to arm themselves with the knowledge needed to become more effective, involved citizens.

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3

Nov 14, 2019

This author has a substantial amount of experience from his occupation. I really enjoyed reading his mind.

However I found myself frustrated with how the content was organized. The content is divided up into 4 large sections, while there is nothing wrong with this style, me as a reader enjoys short topic driven chapters. I don't know what it is about short chapters, but when I finish a chapter I get a feeling of accomplishment. With this book it took forever to get through each section, which This author has a substantial amount of experience from his occupation. I really enjoyed reading his mind.

However I found myself frustrated with how the content was organized. The content is divided up into 4 large sections, while there is nothing wrong with this style, me as a reader enjoys short topic driven chapters. I don't know what it is about short chapters, but when I finish a chapter I get a feeling of accomplishment. With this book it took forever to get through each section, which lengthened the time between my rewarding feeling of accomplishment. I know, it's weird. I also struggled with the contents organization in that it felt as if the author was all over the place. I really enjoy diving deep into a topic and not so much a light bounce around.

The topic of this book is one of deep interest to me as I have been directly effected by this issue. In reading I found myself wondering what the authors definition was for bureaucrat in order for me to wrap my mind around his ideas for solution and conclude for myself if his suggestions were sound when putting his ideas up against the test of principle. My experience has shown there can be language barriers, even when using the same language. Throughout the book I found myself feeling as if I was understanding what he was communicating and on the very next page feeling as if he was contradicting himself. My experience very well could have been the result of his understanding of a word and my understanding of a word to be conflicting, such is the battle of law. It's all about the understanding and interpretation of words found in law. I won't elaborate to much on the element of the toxic mentality of legal council, which the author describes as "such council is not to make sure the truth is ascertained but to advance his client's cause..."

There are quite a few one liners that I thought were very witty and clever. Here are a few:

"... regulation has become so elaborate and technical that it is beyond the understanding of all but a handful of Mandarins." "... every expert to elaborate and exorcise the demon of ambiguity. "

"Looming over us is a larger, more troubling paradox: the quest for protection through certainty results in arbitrary power. ... Only the paradox is perfect: if noncompliance can be found under any law, what protection do we think all this legal detail is providing?"

"Conquering human nature was not the idea when our founders devised a new nation around the freedom of each human. Avoiding coercion by making law into a detailed manual only assures another form of coercion. ... we only meant to make society better, law would lay everything out for us. But law cannot save us from ourselves. "

In regard to regulatory law enforced by unelected bureaucrats, "the irony cannot be allowed to pass: process was intended to make sure everything was done responsibly. It has instead become a device for manipulation, even extortion."

"Only because our devotion to process is so unquestioning have we been able to endure paradox that, like leeches on a weakening patient, steadily drain our vitality."

"By exiling human judgment in the last decades, modern law changed its role from useful tool to brainless tyrant." "... for the original point of bureaucracy was to have professional points of view..." but process, protocol, regulatory rule books detract from humans using good judgment without retaliation from those seeking to follow the letter of the law. "Ordinary decisions are subject to rigid formalities taken as seriously as the due process protection in a criminal trial. The actual goals of government are treated like a distant vision, displaced by an almost religious preoccupation with procedural conformity."

"Judgement is to law as water is to crops." ...more
5

Nov 16, 2017

Totally Amazing and Scary!

First, the scary part. This book was published nearly 25 years ago. The stories about the abuses condoned by are legal system are appalling, but they are old stories. What one has to wonder and worry about is how many more situations that have occurred in the last 25 years. You can be assured the legal system and people's state of mind hasn't improved (i.e. returned to normalcy) in that time.


The message is quite clear: our legal system is very sick, if not broken. The Totally Amazing and Scary!

First, the scary part. This book was published nearly 25 years ago. The stories about the abuses condoned by are legal system are appalling, but they are old stories. What one has to wonder and worry about is how many more situations that have occurred in the last 25 years. You can be assured the legal system and people's state of mind hasn't improved (i.e. returned to normalcy) in that time.


The message is quite clear: our legal system is very sick, if not broken. The result is that no one wants to take responsibility for fear of being sued or inconvenienced. Plus, the definition of "rights" has been so badly distorted by legislation and court system that the social and actual costs to Americans is becoming intolerable. The direction we are all heading is only making the conditions worse. Something has to change, but how long are we willing to wait?

The politicians have us bouncing off the walls. Obama promoted change and now Trump wants to drain the swamp, but neither have addressed the source problem; the legal system needs to be renovated in the extreme. This book offers some ideas.


This book is still very timely about the situation. I highly recommend this book to anyone who about the health of the United States. I plan on reading more books by this author. ...more
3

Jun 05, 2019

A typical listing of various accounts of bureaucratic counterefficiency. Rationalism is the problem as opposed to customary/evolutionary/trial and error approaches to dealing with problems. Poo poos on due process slowing everything down and minority rights harming the general welfare. Answer is simplify things and make individuals responsible... that is recognize the reality government isn't about laws but men. Also it's not as if criminals haven't always been romanticized, that's not just a A typical listing of various accounts of bureaucratic counterefficiency. Rationalism is the problem as opposed to customary/evolutionary/trial and error approaches to dealing with problems. Poo poos on due process slowing everything down and minority rights harming the general welfare. Answer is simplify things and make individuals responsible... that is recognize the reality government isn't about laws but men. Also it's not as if criminals haven't always been romanticized, that's not just a modern phenomena or result of modern horrors.
Government acts like a weak volunteer, as if it is not qualified to question the right of psychotics to choose to remain psychotic. But who else do we have to make these judgments? Are we really so close to authoritarianism that we can’t help those who are sick? Do we think doctors are going to start performing random lobotomies or doping people for their political views? Is it that hard to devise a reasonable method of judicial oversight?
Yes? There's surely historical precedent and if you give anyone an inch in this direction they may go much farther?
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4

Nov 07, 2017

Possibly the least polemical polemic you will ever encounter.
Howard makes a strong case against the American regulatory regime as we know it, but though his recommendations for recovery are (no surprise here) common sense, I for one am doubtful that much can be done to arrest the growth of the beast we have created.
3

May 07, 2017

Not much hope after reading this book... kinda depressing. American bureaucracy and our culture of rights seems so entrenched that I don't see a way out. One potential for an outsider president to make radical changes in the system??
2

Mar 17, 2018

I have a liberal bias towards this book, but I am glad that its information pierced my brain.
5

Oct 08, 2016

It's a start.

An enlightening start in the right direction for this country. Seeing this and having someone confirm and explain this, made the book enjoyable and educational for me.
1

Feb 22, 2017

This was recommended to me by a friend who's a lawyer. He raved about it, but I just couldn't get into it. I read the first 50 pages or so and then realized I couldn't remember a single word or concept being discussed because my attention was elsewhere the whole time.
2

Jun 08, 2015

I don't disagree with much of Howard's concise lament, but I do think putting "what we think is right" over a system of laws is the worst thing that could happen to this country. Not to say that libertarianism is a worthwhile political and social stance, but does he really trust the American people? Coupled with a book I just finished, Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier, it seems to me the laws of the government cover a fairly large area in a I don't disagree with much of Howard's concise lament, but I do think putting "what we think is right" over a system of laws is the worst thing that could happen to this country. Not to say that libertarianism is a worthwhile political and social stance, but does he really trust the American people? Coupled with a book I just finished, Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier, it seems to me the laws of the government cover a fairly large area in a systematic and predictable way, while the individuals that comprise this country are prone to thinking their point of view is the only view.

Doing what we think is right is a fairly good principle to begin with, but I just don't trust that we should give up on the the regulations of OSHIA or the EPA on the principle that they have too many regulations. Regulations are responsive, and if the EPA or OSHIA seem ridiculous, it is probably due to the fact that companies have cut corners, despoiled the environment, and would generally plow through "what is right" with the interest of business survival. These government agencies do good work.

Perhaps in an age when the sole measure of national health comes from political economists, we should have some additional measures of national health, of national progress - as Simon Kuznets advocated years ago - that take into account environmental degradation, self-reported quality of life (See a great NYTimes article on this: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/05/mag...). If we do this, perhaps we'd get more of a response from the community of people that feel over-regulated without recourse. ...more
5

Jan 25, 2008

Philip K. Howard, The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America (Random House, 1994)
by what little justice there is on this planet

I don't think there's a single person in America outside Capitol Hill who doesn't realize that the more laws you have, the more loopholes the laws contain, and the more subject to abuse those laws are. But just in case you need a quick refresher course on how Washington is helping the abusers do their thing and giving the rest of us the middle finger, Philip K. Howard, The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America (Random House, 1994)
by what little justice there is on this planet

I don't think there's a single person in America outside Capitol Hill who doesn't realize that the more laws you have, the more loopholes the laws contain, and the more subject to abuse those laws are. But just in case you need a quick refresher course on how Washington is helping the abusers do their thing and giving the rest of us the middle finger, Howard's book stands as a fine testimony to what doesn't work, why it doesn't work, and the bleedingly simple solution to the whole stupid mess.

In three long, painful chapters, Howard takes critical looks at the Congressional love of process and how that love has led us to the conclusion that process is more important than result. Looked at as a simple sentence, it's a pretty absurd belief, isn't it? Look around. Process rules. Howard points out, in multiple places, two of the recent high-profile projects that circumvented process (the rebuilding of the freeways after the California Earthquake of 1992, and the refurbshing of a major new York bridge in time for its centennial ceremony), and compares and contrasts them to numerous examples of process in action, highlighting the idiocy of process while taking a hard look at the overly liberal viewpoints that spawn it. There won't be too many people who like Howard's easy and obvious solution-- if too many laws are the problem, then get rid of as many of them as necessary to fix it. But logic leads us back to that conclusion time and again.

As important a book, and as deserving of a place on the shelf reserved for sacred writings, as Stanton Peele's The Diseasing of America. **** 1/2 ...more
4

Apr 13, 2014

Great book, He does a great job of describing the problem but the solution is almost hopeless without a real sea change in attitude at the top. The solution is to change how laws are written and forget about the perfectly fair and equal law. Or get government to burn 90% of the laws and leave us all to work from guidelines only. A very tall order because the current system of rules and procedures but no responsibility suits the law makers and the government workers. It just doesn’t work for any Great book, He does a great job of describing the problem but the solution is almost hopeless without a real sea change in attitude at the top. The solution is to change how laws are written and forget about the perfectly fair and equal law. Or get government to burn 90% of the laws and leave us all to work from guidelines only. A very tall order because the current system of rules and procedures but no responsibility suits the law makers and the government workers. It just doesn’t work for any one else but single issue extremists – cost is no object in the pursuit of “rights”. Right to vs right against being the problem. Original rights were a protection from coercion. New rights are a means of coercion where no-one can say no to the right bearer. The stories about public schools and special education are total madness. Waste of resources on monumental scale.
Really scary how well he describes the root cause, and the irony is a lot of it is because when we do something in the USA we go all out and do it right. Even when it is the completely wrong thing to do. No-one else who passes such complex rules then goes out and actually enforces them with all the “due process” hearings and comments and responses and triple committees, etc. I now understand the problem at public schools much better, and I both feel sorry for them, and am running as far away from them as possible.
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5

Jun 13, 2010

This book should be required reading for anyone in government in the U.S., chock full of examples of absurdity cause by the mountain of regulation we've built over the last 50 years. Howard goes after 1) excessively detailed law, 2) slavish dedication to process, and 3) handing out absolute rights that can erode the common good of society (e.g., it's practically impossible to remove a disruptive kid from a classroom nowadays because every child has been granted an absolute "right to an This book should be required reading for anyone in government in the U.S., chock full of examples of absurdity cause by the mountain of regulation we've built over the last 50 years. Howard goes after 1) excessively detailed law, 2) slavish dedication to process, and 3) handing out absolute rights that can erode the common good of society (e.g., it's practically impossible to remove a disruptive kid from a classroom nowadays because every child has been granted an absolute "right to an education", regardless of the costs and trade-offs).

The full detail and scope of some legislation (like OSHA's volumes of safety regulations) is now essentially unknowable by any one enforcer, let alone by the folks who are expected to abide by it. Howard advocates a retreat from rationalism (i.e. that we can cover every legal eventuality if we just write the laws in enough detail) and a return to the concept of "common law". He recommends mandating sunset provisions (10-15 year expiration dates) be included in all new legislation, culling obsolete laws, and shortening 1000-page legislation (Dodd-Frank act anyone?) to a dozen or so pages of principled guidance. The idea is that we would once again have to exercise good judgment and common sense in enforcing the spirit and principles of law, not the letter of it. ...more
5

Jan 28, 2009

I read a couple good excerpts from the book and thought I would give it a shot. The subtitle "How Law is Killing America" made me a little nervous but it turned out to be a great book. The book lays out, using examples of how laws and regulations set out by Congress are ineffective and make getting work done difficult. Accountability has been lost, as no one makes decisions, and the buck stops nowhere. It addresses the cult of rights, a large and complicated bureaucracy, corruption despite I read a couple good excerpts from the book and thought I would give it a shot. The subtitle "How Law is Killing America" made me a little nervous but it turned out to be a great book. The book lays out, using examples of how laws and regulations set out by Congress are ineffective and make getting work done difficult. Accountability has been lost, as no one makes decisions, and the buck stops nowhere. It addresses the cult of rights, a large and complicated bureaucracy, corruption despite safeguards, inefficiency in government, and the shift in focus from results to a fair process.

It made me think about democracy and it seems inevitable that a democracy moves to where we have. It seems to be a law that as an organization becomes larger and more complicated it becomes more difficult to cut back and to simplify. Things just become increasingly more complicated and inefficient. Large businesses go out of business as the world around them shifts and smaller more sprite businesses take their place.

The book though is not a knock on America. It acknowledges that America has historically been a place where they is a great energy and ability to get things done and that we have great potential. He suggests governing by principles as we once did rather than by detailed laws and regulations.
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5

Dec 09, 2009

This book has forced me to re-evaluate my position about rules and regulations. As a programmer, I have to generate code that should take into account every possible situation and be able to not fail miserably when a user runs it. In other words, I shouldn't depend on the user to have common sense. American modern law, as the author points out, has become extremely detailed, and we, as a people, want the law to be self-executing (just like a computer program!). In other words, we don't trust a This book has forced me to re-evaluate my position about rules and regulations. As a programmer, I have to generate code that should take into account every possible situation and be able to not fail miserably when a user runs it. In other words, I shouldn't depend on the user to have common sense. American modern law, as the author points out, has become extremely detailed, and we, as a people, want the law to be self-executing (just like a computer program!). In other words, we don't trust a person's judgment. But, perhaps, my dear friends, we ought to give a person the benefit of a doubt. Let an individual practice their individualism. If the results of their decisions are too awful for society to deal with, making a law about every detailed situation related to the incident isn't necessarily a good idea. Let the enforcers and judges of the law execute their decisions. The author presents many, many examples of how the extreme details of modern law have actually _created_ the loopholes in modern law. We must trust each other, and not some system that cannot think for itself. Computers cannot think for themselves and neither can law. Unlike computers, though, law is deciding our fate.

The very tricky part (for me, anyway) is applying these principles to business regulations and computer programs instead of governmental institutions. ...more
4

Jun 24, 2008

This is not a good bedtime read. It's frankly aggravating, but I knew that coming in. This is, more or less, 287 pages of stating the obvious, but in ways that continue to amaze and infuriate anew. In short, there are too many laws, and more specifically, too many highly detailed universal regulations that don't actually apply to anything in the real world. It was a little upsetting how this book reminded me of all the things I don't like about my job: the idiotic paperwork and endless mandatory This is not a good bedtime read. It's frankly aggravating, but I knew that coming in. This is, more or less, 287 pages of stating the obvious, but in ways that continue to amaze and infuriate anew. In short, there are too many laws, and more specifically, too many highly detailed universal regulations that don't actually apply to anything in the real world. It was a little upsetting how this book reminded me of all the things I don't like about my job: the idiotic paperwork and endless mandatory procedure that goes along with basically everything. This book simply gave me more reasons to roll my eyes. Sure, I didn't quite see eye to eye with the author on everything - I am not quite as enamoured of the New Deal as he, for instance - but he makes enough valid points to give me plenty of food for (frustrating) thought. There is, luckily, a marginal amount of hope offered in the last chapter. I think the author's purpose here was mostly to point out the inanity of the current climate, to show us just how far down the slope we've slid. I doubt we are quite as close to the authoritarian, death-of-democracy dystopia as he implies, but there are unquestionably problems with the way things are being done. This is a book more people need to read, especially those who work as bureaucrats and special-interest advocates. ...more

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