In The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America
, Philip K. Howard
puts forth his belief that America
has become far too reliant on law
over human judgment, on bureaucracy
" over individual initiative
. With countless examples, he demonstrates the disastrous effects of this reliance: Government
regulatory agencies for environmental protection
and workers’ safety
have attempted to perfectly lay out the functioning of a clean, safe factory with thousands of detailed rules and specifications
. These rules consistently miss the point, though, wasting the time and money
of factory owners without bringing about noticeable improvements in worker safety
or environmental cleanliness.
All government actions, from the repair of a cracking dam to the approval of a cure for cancer, are put through inspection and review by several layers of bureaucracy in order to supposedly maintain objectivity and fairness. In actuality, the process ends up producing sub par decisions with far too much delay, and costing American taxpayers countless billions every year.
The laws of Civil Rights are supposed to grant all Americans equal treatment and freedom from prejudice in all areas of life. In practice, though, they grant unequal power to special interest minority groups and cause the proliferation of racially and otherwise biased hiring practices and an uncomfortable work atmosphere because of employers’ fears of discrimination lawsuits.
"Process" has become revered while its objectives have become forgotten: safety inspectors carefully measure the height of ladders and rails but could care less about the actual safety record, public restrooms are denied to bipedal citizens in the name of fairness to the wheelchair-bound.
According to Howard, all these problems are the result of American government replacing personal responsibility with democratic "due process" and contextual judgment with specific laws.