Too Many Lawyers or Too Many Laws?

Harry Browne
Author and Investment Advisor

Harry BrowneHarry Browne is an author and investment advisor.

Below are excerpts from some of the other speeches delivered at the Center for Constructive Alternatives and Ludwig von Mises Lecture Series seminar, “Between Power and Liberty: Economics and the Law,” on the Hillsdale College campus in March. All the speeches delivered at this seminar will appear in Volume 25 of the College’s Champions of Freedom series, which will be available in November 1997.

Government doesn’t work.

It doesn’t deliver the mail on time. It doesn’t educate our children properly. It doesn’t keep the city safe. And yet we continue to play a gigantic game of “Let’s Pretend” by depending on government to solve problems. Worse yet, we refuse to recognize that government often creates the very problems that we ask it to solve.

Our politicians have perfected the knack of being able to blame others for the sins of government. When inflation soared in the 1970s, where did our leaders point their fingers? At Arab oil sheiks, labor union bosses, and “greedy” businessmen. They did not identify the real culprit—the government’s loose monetary policy, which had been allowed to eat away at the economy for ten years and which had made inflation inevitable. As government has destroyed the health care system in the 1980s and 1990s, who have our leaders blamed? Doctors and insurance agents, of course. There is never a shortage of scapegoats for politicians and bureaucrats to point to.

Today’s major scapegoats are lawyers. They are blamed for the litigation explosion and, once again, politicians and bureaucrats come to the rescue by offering solutions and involve ever-more government—such as caps on liability settlements. But lawyers are merely taking advantage of the laws and regulations that make lawsuits possible—the Americans with Disabilities Act, EPA regulations, discrimination laws, and so on. The problem is no more that we have too many lawyers than it is that we have too many businessmen or doctors. As always, it’s a problem of too much government.