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Life Without Lawyers: Liberating Americans from Too Much Law
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Life Without Lawyers: Liberating Americans from Too Much Law

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  129 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
Americans are losing the freedom to make sense of daily choices—teachers can't maintain order in the classroom, managers are trained to avoid candor, schools ban the game of tag, and companies plaster inane warnings on everything: "Remove Baby Before Folding Stroller." Philip K. Howard's urgent and elegant argument is full of examples, often darkly humorous. He describes t ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published January 12th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Bill  Kerwin
Mar 18, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it liked it

Philip K. Howard argues for commonsense legal and bureaucratic reform as a remedy for the paralysis and demoralization that plague all our modern institutions. These problems are caused--in Howard's view-- by fear of lawsuits, an overemphasis on individual rights (as opposed to group or community rights), and an excessive devotion to "due process," particularly as a preemptive strategy.

He argues that teachers, doctors and managers must be allowed to exercise their individual judgments without c
...more
Sarah
Dec 21, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it
Howard discusses how concerns about lawsuits have sacrificed the greater common good for individuals' often petty grievances. More broadly, reliance on and control by laws and rules have removed individual responsibility from much decision-making (for example, teachers are subject to overregulation that prevents them from teaching, while lawmakers and others in positions of power deny responsibility for programs ostensibly under their control). He acknowledges that much of this regulation came f ...more
Josh Meares
Dec 14, 2010 Josh Meares rated it really liked it
I'm not a lawyer, and I don't know much about law. But I do know history, and I think I have a pretty good understanding of the way things work. So it's no big news to me, or to anyone else, that our legal system is in big trouble.


This book says a lot of good things about how to make our legal system work. One of the reasons I like it is because it echoes one of the ideas I've been repeating for years: Law needs to be simplified. My heuristic is that if a law is incomprehensible to a 6th grader,
...more
todd
Feb 19, 2009 todd rated it liked it
Karl and Becky may not like the title, but I suspect they would agree with most of the points. Howard has written an important book, but one that could have been more economical in its prose. The main premise is that in trying to fix everything by enacting laws and regulations, the basic virtue of human judgment has been suffocated. The result is a serious decline in the application of common sense and severe damage to our society. He presents convincing examples from tort law, over-regulated pu ...more
Alex
Feb 07, 2016 Alex rated it liked it
Howard is dead-on in his analysis of what's wrong with America today, and I would give the book a higher rating were it not for the fact that it is so similar to his previous two books. What this one adds is information about specific ideas about how to fix things... an “Agenda for Change” championed by his Common Good non-profit group. And that's a welcome addition, as it gives us all a way to become part of the solution.
Sarah
Dec 12, 2010 Sarah rated it liked it
"Law must work both ways: It must prohibit defined wrongs, and it must affirmatively protect an area of freedom."
"Authority is not the enemy of freedom, but its protector."
With examples taken mostly from the teaching and medical professional, Philip Howard makes his case for law limits and most importantly, responsibility of the individual in society (not society for the individual). I did not agree with everything Philip Howard says (Risk Committees?), but Philip brings the problem home with e
...more
Linda
May 20, 2010 Linda rated it liked it
This book makes so much sense, but this author has written about "common sense" before. It is nice to see, laid out in print, the things many of us think every time we hear a story such as the McDonalds hot coffee lawsuit. I was shocked to learn how restrictive the school environment has become. No running on the playground - are they crazy? Kids are supposed to explore their limits and get a few cuts and scrapes along the way. It does get a bit repetitive. He makes an attempt to provide solutio ...more
Rich
Apr 27, 2009 Rich rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
For years Phillip Kay Howard has been trying shine a light on the absurdies of our legal and politcial systems. And he's right in almost everything he says. And he lays out a plan for changing things, but I wonder how it will be implemented, and there are places where it seems he contradicts himself. He says we need less government, and then goes on to suggest government mandated service. It seems a little contradictory. But he's right in everything he says.

But in the end, how do we wrest power
...more
Josh
Apr 29, 2009 Josh rated it really liked it
I mostly picked this book up because the title made me tingly all over. Okay, I actually picked it up because I had read a previous book by Mr. Howard called The Death of Common Sense and enjoyed it. In Life Without Lawyers he calls for some bold changes to our overly-regulated and legalistic system in order to return accountability to the people and eliminate the mindless rule-following that has damaged our way of life. Fascinating read. I checked it out from the library and now I'm going to ha ...more
Noah
Apr 08, 2009 Noah rated it it was ok
What a letdown. Howard's heart is in the right place, and I certainly agree with most of his conclusions, but this book is absurdly vague, mealy-mouthed, and wishful. He repeats himself over and over, and when he actually offers specific examples, he focuses too narrowly on the cases of medical practice and schools. There isn't even much in the way of interesting legal history, let alone a roadmap of specific, incremental reforms. This book is a pamphlet in disguise.
Ryan
Aug 17, 2009 Ryan rated it it was amazing
A book about taking back law in the US. This book gives so many ridiculous rules that we have to live by, which ultimately restrict our freedoms. His examples focus on educators, health care, and the judicial system. We can't act on our instincts because of fear of a lawsuit. Teachers have no power in the classroom because of lawsuits. Crazy.
Mbrief
Apr 21, 2009 Mbrief rated it really liked it
THis book made me ache for the common sense of years gone by. Indeed, it seems judges only look out for the interest of one individual, instead of the common good. However, it does make me realize how very difficult it will be to change our judicial course.
Tomomi
Mar 09, 2010 Tomomi rated it it was amazing
A somewhat ironic choice for me - but extremely glad I picked it up. The most thoughtful, inspired, intelligent book I've read in a long time. I've even found myself quoting portions of it throughout the day to friends. And a quick read at that. Highly recommended.
Bick Mcswiney
Oct 14, 2014 Bick Mcswiney rated it it was amazing
please read this book. i love this book and the point that drives it. for it to succeed, americans need to take charge of risk and create a grassroots movement to remove the excessive litigation from destroying our society.
bick
Jan 12, 2011 bick rated it it was amazing
please read this book. i love this book and the point that drives it. for it to succeed, americans need to take charge of risk and create a grassroots movement to remove the excessive litigation from destroying our society.
Michael
Jul 23, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it
Howard's lates opus is both maddening and inspiring. This time, he spells out the steps needed to fix our country. Will anyone actually do it? Sigh.
Jim O'shaughnessy
Jan 26, 2012 Jim O'shaughnessy rated it really liked it
Philip is a friend and is doing great work on discussing how we got into such an awful place with government regulations.
Katherine
Jan 20, 2011 Katherine rated it it was ok
Reads like a long essay, with lots of tangents. Gives the need for responsibility and authority in the USA a voice.
Jon
Feb 07, 2010 Jon rated it really liked it
Interesting perspective on how our attitudes of trying to control the details of our lives has an inverse result.
Kevin O'connor
There are some good observations on how failed the legal system is. SOME Ideas on how to solve them.
Aaron Wyllie
Aaron Wyllie marked it as to-read
Jun 11, 2016
Laura
Laura marked it as to-read
Jun 08, 2016
jaydro
jaydro added it
Jun 06, 2016
Sharon Williams
Sharon Williams rated it it was amazing
Jun 09, 2016
Amanda Hasan
Amanda Hasan marked it as to-read
Jun 01, 2016
Laura
Laura marked it as to-read
May 28, 2016
Rebecca
Rebecca rated it really liked it
May 25, 2016
Matthew Dambro
Matthew Dambro marked it as to-read
May 17, 2016
Fivewincs
Fivewincs marked it as to-read
May 08, 2016
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Philip K. Howard, a lawyer, advises leaders of both parties on legal and regulatory reform. He is chair of Common Good and a contributor to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Philip K. Howard is a well-known leader of government and legal reform in America. His new book, The Rule of Nobody (W. W. Norton & Company, April 2014), has been praised by Fareed Zakaria as “an utterly compe
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