Some politicians are outright crooks, in it for the money; while others are just frightened rabbits. So reforming politics through politicians is nearly impossible. By Henry Stern.
Philip Howard is a contemporary social critic who has found serious fault with the American legal system. He has assembled a wide array of intellectuals and public figures that support his proposals.
Essentially, Howard would have us rely more on common sense and individual judgment, rather than have the outcome of disputes decided by arcane rules which may or may not really apply to actual situations that people encounter. He protests the expense and delay which we are forced to endure. Laws and regulations are sometimes written to protect particular interests, at the expense of the public. The most protected group are lawyers themselves, who are personally enriched by the complexity and ambiguity of the process of dispute resolution.
Without signing on to every word he has written, I believe that he is essentially correct. The problem he faces is that it is the lawyers who make the laws, because many of them are also legislators or career government employees. They are highly unlikely, on their own initiative, to change a system under which they have such an important and profitable role.
The reforms that Howard advocates, meritorious as they are, require political support to be enacted. Politics, however, is not a noble endeavor. Some politicians are outright crooks, in it for the money; while others are frightened rabbits, subservient to their contributors, whose money they need to be re-elected. Still others just do what their party leaders tell them to do, out of fear of retaliation, isolation, deprivation of pork barrel items, or gerrymandering.
How Howard’s noble proposals will win approval from the self-serving institutions whose consent is necessary for their adoption is the problem we face today. We need your help in finding an answer.
Henry Stern is president of New York Civic.