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Philip K. Howard

The panel is packed with big names and many of them offer suggestions with a law or regulation angle, including Philip K. Howard (“Radically Simplify Law”), Derek Khanna (rethink patent and copyright law; related, Ramesh Ponnuru), Morris Kleiner (reform occupational licensure; related, Steven Teles), Arnold Kling (“Sidestep the FCC and the FDA”), Robert Litan (admit more high-skill immigrants and reform employment of teachers; similarly on immigration, Alex Nowrasteh), Adam Thierer (emphasize “permissionless innovation”), and Peter Van Doren (relax zoning so to ease movement of workers to high-wage cities).

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Nick Gillespie reviews the new book by the author of The Death of Common Sense:

The Rule of Nobody updates and expands Howard’s original brief, and it helps to explain why government at all levels not only is on autopilot but on a flight path that can only end in disaster.

Every Philip Howard book is notable for its horror stories of regulation and systemic dysfunction, and reviewer Kyle Smith in the New York Post relates one I hadn’t heard, about the mammoth Deepwater Horizon spill:

When the oil rig started leaking mud and gas, the crew should have simply directed the flow over the side. Dumped it in the gulf. That would have been a small oil spill, of course, and no oil spill is a good thing. But in trying to avoid that, the crew caused a gigantic oil spill. Eleven lives were lost.

Safety protocol called for the men to aim the flow into a safety gizmo called an oil and gas separator, but that became backed up and made matters worse. Explosive gas filled the air around the rig, which finally exploded.

Then some workers who escaped in a raft almost died. Why? They were tied to the burning rig, and regulations forbade them to carry knives so they couldn’t cut themselves free.

More on the book here. Another review: Jesse Singal, Boston Globe.


A flawed IDEA

by Walter Olson on February 7, 2014

Author Philip K. Howard, who’s begun more regular blogging in connection with his forthcoming book The Rule of Nobody, wonders where the Congressional leader can be found with the courage to take on the failings of IDEA, the special-education law. [Common Good]


June 4 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 4, 2012


March 21 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 21, 2012

  • Shame on DoJ: “Systematic concealment” of evidence when feds prosecuted Sen. Ted Stevens [WaPo, Caleb Mason/Prawfs] NYT notes feds’ losing streak in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prosecutions [NYT, our latest]
  • Italy: tax officials stop luxury cars, demand drivers’ most recent tax returns [Secular Right]
  • Pinterest: casual users (perhaps especially casual users) might be opening themselves to copyright liability [DDK Portraits, WSJ Law Blog] And in case you needed a reminder not to publish photos grabbed from random web sources… [Webcopyplus]
  • In new Atlantic special report, Philip K. Howard collects papers on outdated government law and regulation from contributors Robert Litan, Julie Barnes, Mark Warner, Jim Cooper;
  • Institute for Justice sues IRS over its new licensing requirements for tax preparers [Ilya Shapiro and Chaim Gordon/Cato, Paul Caron/TaxProf, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Barton Hinkle]
  • “It is acceptable to refer to all court proceedings as a ‘trial,’ because seriously, you ever sat through one of those things?” [@FakeAPStylebook]
  • Christopher Booker series on child-snatching by UK authorities [Telegraph: first, second, third]

Philip K. Howard’s latest, for the Washington Post:

Once enacted, most laws are ignored for generations, allowed to take on a life of their own without meaningful review. Decade after decade, they pile up like sediment in a harbor, bogging the country down – in dense regulation, unaffordable health care, and higher taxes and public debt.

Time, he says, to revisit the “sunset law” idea, under which laws would expire unless affirmatively reenacted, and radical simplification as well.


“Drowning in law”

by Walter Olson on October 16, 2010

Author Philip K. Howard’s latest op-ed tells of the “legal quicksand” faced by small business owners, who

face legal challenges at every step. Municipalities requires multiple and often nonsensical forms to do business. Labor laws expose them to legal threats by any disgruntled employee. Mandates to provide costly employment benefits impose high hurdles to hiring new employees. Well-meaning but impossibly complex laws impose requirements to prevent consumer fraud, provide disability access, prevent hiring illegal immigrants, display warnings and notices and prevent scores of other potential evils. The tax code is incomprehensible.

All of this requires legal and other overhead – costing 50% more per employee for small businesses than big businesses.

[New York Daily News]

Young Walter Olson

by Ted Frank on March 16, 2010

Starting at 11:20, though I imagine, given the April 19, 1995, date, that not many people were watching on C-SPAN at the time. Now’s the chance to catch up.

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Author Philip K. Howard (The Death of Common Sense, Life Without Lawyers) gives a talk at the famous TED conference:

February 10 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 10, 2010

  • Man who shot dogs sues blogger whose critical account of episode allegedly put him in false light [Christopher Comins v. Matthew Frederick VanVoorhis, Florida, Citizen Media Law; Greenfield (free speech attorney Marc Randazza assisting VanVoorhis)]
  • Appeals court revives Pennsylvania couple’s trespass suit against Google over Google Street View pics of their home and pool [Legal Intelligencer, ABA Journal]
  • “Rich Guy Sues to Keep $380/Month Rent on Park Ave.” [Gothamist]
  • “Think Davis-Bacon on steroids” — Obamaites mull SEIU-driven “High Road” policy to push federal contractors into union practices [Daily Caller, Michael Fox via PoL]
  • Federal judge’s 49-page sanctions order blasts Adorno & Yoss, two lawyers and client over bad faith conduct of trade dress suit [Fulton County Daily Report]
  • “Terrorist who killed US medic wants C$10 million from Canadian taxpayers” [CanWest/ via David Frum]
  • “Massachusetts Woman Sues Real Estate Broker over Second-Hand Smoke in Condo” [Somin, Volokh; case settles]
  • “Our litigation process encourages radical polarization” — part II of Q&A with author Philip Howard [WSJ Law Blog, link to part I]

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The WSJ Law Blog interviews the well-known author (The Death of Common Sense, The Collapse of the Common Good), Covington & Burling lawyer, and founder of Common Good. I praised the hardcover edition last year.


CBS Sunday Morning this weekend profiled author, lawyer and reformer (Common Good/”health courts”) Philip K. Howard. Related: Progressive Policy Institute to press health-court idea on Capitol Hill? [AP/Washington Post]


April 24 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 24, 2009

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February 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 3, 2009

  • Lawyer charged with particularly awful pattern of thefts from disabled/incapacitated persons [NYTimes, Steven Rondos]
  • “Buy American” provisions in stimulus bill could start trade war [Postrel]. Parting blow to America’s taste buds: outgoing Bush admininstration slapped high tariffs on Roquefort cheese, Irish oatmeal [Cowen, MargRev]
  • In widening scandal of U.K. miners’-claim lawyers, one law firm found to have funneled more than £6 million to Arthur Scargill’s union [Times Online]
  • 1936 Clarence Darrow piece on how to pick a jury makes a sort of time capsule of wince-worthy stereotypes [Deliberations]
  • Want to start up moving company in Oregon or liquor store in California? You might find your competitors can legally block you [Coyote]
  • Maybe there’s hope for Dahlia Lithwick, she “shares concerns” about lame lawsuits and judgment-warping liability fears [Slate, on Philip Howard's Life Without Lawyers]
  • Dear major banks: Regret to inform must impose high penalties for your unauthorized overdraft of our funds [Naked Capitalism]
  • “Ethics laundering”: how lawyers can use Internet to evade NY rules against client solicitation [Turkewitz]

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The popular author is in today’s WSJ with an op-ed summarizing his new book, which was also the subject of a nice piece in The Economist the other week (our earlier coverage). American Courthouse also comments, while Carter Wood at ShopFloor observes that George Will’s column at the Washington Post giving the book a rave was bedecked with ads for you-know-who.


George Will raves about this new book by the well-known author on topics dear to this site. I’m much of the way through my review copy and I can say if you like this website, you’ll almost certainly enjoy this book. Author/lawyer Philip K. Howard (The Death of Common Sense) is also a very skillful writer, and, with his organization Common Good, a longtime friend of this site. So why not order a copy today?

P.S. Canadian law student site Law Is Cool interviews Howard. And — equal time dept.: — plaintiff’s lawyers Ron Miller, Max Kennerly, and Brooks Schuelke offer very different views.