This blog is about thinking and how thoughts determine the experience of the individual as well as society. Not surprisingly, then, I find myself reading Philip K. Howard’s latest book, Life Without Lawyers. You gotta love the title. Howard takes on our litigation society run amuck and how it literally deprives us our freedom. “This freedom to be yourself - to have personal ownership of your choices - is, for my money, the greatest gift of the American culture.” We’ve reached the point where too many people must weigh legal aspects and considerations before making a decision. You’ve got your lawyer story, we all do.
It was twenty years ago that friend and colleague Micah Hackler and I co-authored a play Lawyers! satirizing a litigious society. The comedy pictured an America so infested with lawyers and courts that some folks were paying big bucks to be smuggled into Mexico. It was good fun. The outrageous situations the hero and heroine wrestled have, to our chagrin, become reality. I hate writing fiction that becomes real.
Howard’s book is another case for “We the People” asserting our self-evident rights. I have to remind myself that every time the city council is in session, the state legislature convenes and Congress is in session, laws will be passed and more people will become criminals.
Also on the table for reading is Jon Meacham’s American Lion. This is a rich biography of Andrew Jackson and his presidency - the only era in American history that bears the name of a person. History puts contemporary challenges in perspective - there is a lot of truth in the observation that there is nothing new under the sun. Jackson’s life is the classic rags to riches, tragedy to triumph, adventure. Jackson’s bull-headed determination to secure the nation and its constitution is presented in great detail. The book gives a balanced view of the times, helping us remember that issues that seem so defined to us were not for our predecessors.
On the “read the occasional chapter” table is William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I read this classic at least once a decade to check on current affairs - just in case the lunacy that ensnared Germany is surfacing elsewhere.
So far, We the People are doing fine. And with fewer laws and lawyers, we’ll soar.