Thursday, 29 April 2010

Four ways to fix a broken legal system

TED talk by Philip K. Howard 'Four ways to fix a broken legal system' given in February 2010

Great talk on TED filled with certain ideas on how to improve legal system that could apply also to consumer law.

1. Judge law mainly by its effect on society, not individual situations

'We have the wrong frame of reference. We have been trained to think that the way to look at every dispute, every issue is a matter of individual rights so we peer through a legal microscope and look at everything, is it possible that there were extenuating circumstances (...) and of course the hindsight bias is perfect: there is always a different scenario that you can sketch out where it is possible that something could have been done differently, and yet we've been trained to squint into this legal microscope hoping that we can judge any dispute against a standard of a perfect society, where everyone will agree on what's fair, and where accidents will be extinct, risk will be no more. Of course, this is utopia. This is a formula for paralysis not freedom.'

2. Trust in law is an essential condition of freedom. Distrust skews behavior towards failure.

'If you make people self-conscious about their judgments, studies show, you will make them make worse judgments (...) Self-consciousness is the enemy of accomplishment. Edison stated it best: "Hell, we ain't got no rules around here, we're trying to accomplish something".'

3. Law must set boundaries protecting an open field of freedom, not intercede in all disputes.

'What people can sue for establishes the boundaries of everyone else's freedom. If someone brings a lawsuit over a seesaw, kid fell off the seesaw, doesn't matter what happens in the lawsuit, all the seesaws will disappear.'

4. To rebuild boundaries of freedom, two changes are essential:
  • simplify the law
'The constitution is only 16 pages long it worked pretty well for 200 years.'
  • restore authority to judges and officials to apply law
'We have to rehumanize the law. (...) You have to think that if there is a dispute there is somebody in the society who sees it as their job to affirmatively protect you if you are acting reasonably. That person doesn't exist today.'

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