John Stossel: Regulations strangle the life out of America
I'm not so cynical that I think politicians pass laws just to control us. Someone always thinks: "This law is needed. This will protect people."
Yet lawyers like George Washington Law professor John Banzhaf want more rules.
Banzhaf requires his law students to sue people, just for practice.
They do. But his legal "victories" hardly benefit the public.
He and his students have sued Washington, D.C., hairdressers and dry cleaners for "discrimination" because they charge women more.
So the poor defendants have to spend thousands on legal fees, while law students get their "practice." A Korean dry cleaners association "went through three or four high-powered law firms" defending itself, Banzhaf says with pride.
Tibor Machan, professor of business ethics at Chapman University, told me we should object to Banzhaf on principle. "Is it right to manipulate people all the time, to treat them like they're little children? The next step from the nanny state is the petty tyrannical state. And a dictatorial state."
The conceit of politicians and lawyers is that they think they can manage life through rules. So they keep adding more.
Critics of lawsuit abuse focus on the cost of litigation, but the bigger harm is that fear of lawsuits itself deprives us of good things.
• Drug companies invented a vaccine against Lyme disease, but they won't sell it, because they're scared of lawyers.
• Monsanto developed a substitute for asbestos, a fire-resistant insulation that might save thousands of lives, but decided not to sell it because the company feared it might be sued.
I don't suggest that we should be at the mercy of rip-off artists. Some lawsuits are useful — if businesses commit theft or fraud, they should be sued. But American law encourages suits. In other countries, if you sue and lose, you and your lawyer must pay the court bills of the people you dragged into court.
The free market does a better job protecting consumers. Competition protects us.
John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed."
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