Posted 10/28/11 by Common Good
"Whatever happened to the rule, ‘Do not speak unless you can improve the silence’?”
That’s the question the Washington Post’s George Will asks in a recent column about the “merciless river of words” that characterizes today’s airport experience. Warnings and disclaimers are everywhere—like the announcements that moving walkways will indeed end (“Pretty much everything does come to an end, doesn’t it?”). Do they really make us safer? Making arguments akin to Start Over’s on the effects of legal fear and the need to rein in lawsuits, Will writes:
Perhaps some silly warnings are ‘necessary’ to fend off the Fourth Branch of government, a.k.a. trial lawyers. But this merely underscores the fact that all this noise is symptomatic of modern derangements. Solemn warnings about nonexistent risks, and information intended to spare us the slightest responsibility for passing through life with a modicum of attention and intelligence — these express, among other things, an entitlement mentality that the nanny state foments: If something bad or even inconvenient or merely annoying happens to us, even if it results from our foolishness, daydreaming or brooding about the meaning of life, we are entitled to sue someone for restitution.
In January 2009, Will wrote about the work of Philip K. Howard and Common Good, stating: “Law is essential to, but can stifle, freedom…[Today,] what should be routine daily choices and interactions are fraught with legal risk.” Will went on to call Howard’s Life Without Lawyers “2009’s most needed book on public affairs.”
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