by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
We once were a commonsense, can-do country. Yet we’ve become a place seemingly stuck in molasses, and we are ever more fearful of inadvertently offending something or somebody. Society has never seemed so disputatious.
Why, for decades, have we been inundated with an endless blizzard of nitpicking rules and regulations? Why does it take ten years to build a highway that once took two years? Why can’t teachers discipline students anymore? Why can’t grossly incompetent or abusive government workers be fired without immense, time-consuming procedures? Why have judges lost control of their courtrooms to extortionist litigants? Why have so many colleges and universities surrendered to anti-free-speech extremists? When things are not done right in the government, why is it impossible to insist on responsibility?
And the political consequences are serious, as people increasingly feel they’re losing control over their lives.
Howard says the crisis began in the late 1960s, when the notion grew in law schools that society would run better and more fairly if we were governed by precise rules that would minimize individual discretion, thereby preventing the exercise of arbitrary power. The situation was made worse by the rise of government unions that have made the removal of nonperforming personnel a virtual impossibility.
Howard’s short yet blood-pressure-raising book makes the case that the current political parties—rhetoric to the contrary—are too vested in the status quo to make the radical changes that would allow America to again be the practical culture we once were.