The Crippling Effect of Law
A significant point that Philip K. Howard highlights is that the law that has been set to protect the freedom of individuals is the same law that prevents people from acting freely anymore. He gives examples of a teacher who was forced to adjust a student’s grade after failing him for submitting the paper late and a doctor who hesitates to make recommendations or perform some procedures for fear of incurring a lawsuit in the process. In essence, people across different professions have been forced to review their proceedings and actions to distance themselves from liability; a move that cripples the freedom of expression among many citizens. It is almost as if people have to double check their suggestions, routines, actions, and questions to identify any form of legal liability so as to avoid lawsuits at all costs.
It is impossible to have a perfect system with no risks, no accidents, and no disputes. This is what Philip K. Howard terms as utopia, and the use of the law to judge disputes based on a perfect pedestal is in fact paralysis and not freedom. This “paralysis” is an enemy of growth and development. When you have professionals acting in fear and always subconscious of the law, they end up making more mistakes than if they had professional freedom. The country ends up having stagnated development and incurring massive costs due to numerous legal suits by any individual who does not like the systems or projects. An insightful solution provided by Philip K. Howard is to put in place “laws that set boundaries to protect an open field of freedom and not ones that intercede in all disputes.” Running a society with the lowest common denominator is impossible. It is only through the restoration of the authority to make common choices that the United States can ensure the freedom of its people and motivate them to develop and meet the challenges of the nation….The Crippling Effect of Law