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Tort Reform

Just wanted to make I hope a relatively short comment about Tort Reform.

Tort Reform generally applies to juried civil cases. The major complaint is that jurists are too easily manipulated into giving ridiculous awards to the plaintiffs.

My answer is, if you’re saying a group of people are too easily manipulated through the mechanizations of others, then you’re really saying that Democracy doesn’t work. What may I ask is the difference?

And, if you’re saying Democracy doesn’t work, then you’re also clearly saying markets don’t work, since markets and democracy both use the same exact choice mechanisms as juries. This would tend to put a very large kibosh on the whole “perfect markets” mentality.

The point being if a jury of 8 can be manipulated by a single slick lawyer, how is that different than a “jury” of millions being influenced by up to tens of thousands of PR specialists when selecting¬† politicians, products, or stocks?

It isn’t.

Another point. If you’re one of those who believes the “government can do no good” and that regulation is “market distortion”, then quite clearly Tort Reform is exactly that. It favors, in particularly, the weak over the strong. I should note while I’m here, no one discusses “Tort Reform” in context of the RIAA suing some schmuck for stupidly downloading songs. Sure, we may not like it, but when we’re talking “Tort Reform” we’re usually talking a single individual who in theory is suffering from real damages. In short, we’re gung ho for “Tort Reform” when it’s the little guy, but less so when it’s giant organizations. That’s a curious dichotomy is it not?

Back to the point about “market manipulation”, one of the key tenets of the Libertarian ideal is the importance of “contract law”. If the government intervenes preventing the full execution of a “contract” by capping liabilities and penalties, not only are they distorting the market, they’re voiding the benefits of relying on contract law. Same for general entity-to-entity liability outside of contract law (eg: if I accidentally burn down your house, I should be liable for any damages).

Finally, I think many find Tort Reform attractive when it’s talking about other people – we think it’ll save us money or help “fix” the system. Few if any believe that it will apply to them and in my experience those pro-Tort Reform are just as likely to sue or recommend to sue as any that are against. In fact, all one has to do is pay attention to the media and you’ll see pro-Tort Reform exercise the civil courts as often as any other and yet I am sure, which is completely human, that they do not see the reasons why they think Tort Reform should apply to others as applying to themselves.

In the end I’m inclined, as Chomsky does, that Tort Reform is about preserving power. The courts can balance power between the little and the large, and that does not benefit the landed interests. Again, like much of what goes around today, I think the average pro-Tort Reform supporter is being manipulated against their own interests and in favor of the rentier class. Again, good people being conned into doing bad things.

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