“an uncomfortable but timely message”

With a Northern Ireland-specific Bill of Rights apparently marooned within a wider conversation, the Irish Times has a timely review of Life Without Lawyers by Philip K. Howard. From the Irish Times review

Some liberal commentators take the view that legal rights are like piped water – they cannot get enough of them. Howard’s analysis is a welcome antidote to this view. He discusses the creation of legal rights in the US which have given free rein to disruptive children, at the expense of the other children in the class.

But in fact rights are more akin to the money supply. One cannot improve public welfare by printing new money or manufacturing new rights indefinitely. The creation of a right involves the creation of a corresponding duty in others, and the limitation of the freedoms of others where they conflict with that new right. Freedom, Howard says, becomes merely what is left when those with “rights” have exhausted their demands.

Time magazine reviewed the [US aimed] book in January

Howard’s book is a withering critique not of lawyers, but of us: a nation paralyzed by fear, unwilling to assume responsibility, both overly reliant on authority and distrustful of it. Law is wielded as a weapon of intimidation rather than as an instrument of protection..

Sound familiar?


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