Link to jump to start of content The Seattle Times Company Jobs Autos Homes Rentals NWsource Classifieds seattletimes.com
The Seattle Times STOP: The Seattle Times Opinion Blog
Traffic | Weather | Your account Movies | Restaurants | Today's events



Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

The opinions you read below are those of the individual writers, not necessarily views that will become formal positions of The Seattle Times. Respond to STop
(Please be aware that your name and comments may be published here, unless you specify otherwise).

Currently, STop cannot automatically post readers' comments on the blog. However, the editorial staff will regularly post readers' comments. Your comments are sent directly to the individual editor or writer.

space space space

Jim Vesely
space
Jim Vesely
E-mail | Bio


Lee Moriwaki
space
Lee Moriwaki
E-mail | Bio


Joni Balter
space
Joni Balter
E-mail | Bio


Eric Devericks
space
Eric Devericks
E-mail | Bio


Lance Dickie
space
Lance Dickie
E-mail | Bio


Bruce Ramsey
space
Bruce Ramsey
E-mail | Bio


Kate Riley
space
Kate Riley
E-mail | Bio


Lynne Varner
space
Lynne Varner
E-mail | Bio


Ryan Blethen
space
Ryan Blethen
E-mail | Bio


October 10, 2005

The Authority to Make Common Choices

Philip K. Howard was in the other day. He’s the New York lawyer who made a splash a decade ago with his thin and infuriating book (infuriating at his topic, not at him), The Death of Common Sense. These were followed by The Collapse of the Common Good and The Lost Art of Drawing the Line.

I read only the first one, but I get his point. Too many decisions are being made by lawyers, and a good deal of those are really stupid decisions. An example is the “zero tolerance” policy for guns in the public schools, in which a working .38 machine pistol, an antique pistol with no trigger spring, a plastic cap gun and a miniature replica one inch long might all be called “weapons” and subject their owners to expulsion. The policy forces a school administrator to be stupid, and not recognize the difference between a weapon, a perceived weapon, an artifact and an obvious toy. Another example is employee recommendations. Employers are now advised not to give any recommendations, good or bad, about employees who are leaving, for fear of being sued for defamation. The policy pressures employers to be mute, undermining the socially useful function of passing on an employee’s reputation to other employers.

Our Sunday op-ed piece, by David Brown of The Washington Post, highlighted the legal molasses that slowed down the rescuers after Katrina. He wrote, “We've become a society of rule-followers and permission-seekers. Despite our can-do self-image, what we really want is to be told what to do. When the going gets tough, the tough get consent forms.” His advice, for next time: If you’re in an emergency, and you know something ought to be done, “Just do it.”

But that is running a risk. What Howard is trying to put together is a movement “to restore the authority to make common choices.” That means the authority of rescuers and responders, of teachers and principals, and—particularly—doctors. That does not mean making it impossible to sue them, Howard said, but it should mean making it much more difficult to win and collect damages. It means raising the burden of proof.

I’m for that.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at October 10, 2005 05:42 PM



Marketplace

November 2005

S M T W T F S
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30