Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Simplifying Law

Philip K. Howard has an excellent essay at the Cato Institute on the importance of simplifying the law:

The solution, broadly, is to restore human responsibility as the activating force of law and regulation. Law should be radically simplified into goals and governing principles, like the Constitution, and leave to accountable humans the responsibility to achieve those goals fairly and sensibly. Law becomes a fence around a corral, within which humans can try to achieve results in their own way. Any successful regulatory oversight works this way. The FAA, for example, certifies new planes as “airworthy” without detailed codes on how many rivets per square foot etc. Would you rather fly on a plane that was permitted to fly only because a court decided it complied with detailed regs? Australia replaced a thousand rules for nursing homes with 31 broad principles such as requiring “a homelike setting” and respecting “privacy and dignity.” The experts scoffed. Within a year the nursing homes were materially better.


  1. Ye Olde Statistician2:14 PM

    The problem with broad principles vs. detailed specs is that they allow newcomers to compete with Established Interests. Hence, the forest of minutiae whose purpose if to make things frustrating for start-ups and newcomers.

    See also:

  2. branemrys5:07 PM

    Very true!

  3. Kevin Aldrich9:18 AM

    You know of my friend, James Chastek!

  4. Ye Olde Statistician3:42 PM

    Mr. Chastek is a philosophical god, like our host here.


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