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The Death of Common Sense (1994): Overlawyered

Philip K. Howard, The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America (Random House, 1994)

[originally posted 17Sep2001]

The title, on a white cover with yellow trim.

When the common sense is gone, what do we have left?
photo credit:

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. **** ½

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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