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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Lawyers, Legislators, and Judges Have Destroyed Accountability

     Discussing the virtues of accountability is a little like talking about the joy of taking exams. It's not exactly what we look forward to in life. Accountability is scary--someone else judging how we're doing….But accountability is an essential part of a healthy life and a healthy society. We all know this. In this age of legal insecurity, however, we are no longer free to act on the obvious--as with our obsession with safety and with rights. We want a perfect world, without failures or disagreements.

     In striving for this utopia we don't notice all the vital benefits that we lose. The freedom of people to make accountability judgments is vital to just about everything important and joyful in work life….

     To see ourselves as we really are, we need the mirror of other people's views. Scientists tell us that most people are incapable of accurately judging themselves, because humans are hard-wired by nature to be self-centered. Our founders believed this as well--that a human being was an atom of self-interest. By protecting against the judgment of others, modern personnel law [employer-emplyee relations] fosters these worst tendencies in humans, starting a downward spiral….

     One federal judge told me about presiding over a discrimination trial in which the facts of the worker's incompetence were overwhelming. As the trial progressed, it was clear to everyone in the courtroom that the worker had no claim. When the verdict came in dismissing his claim, however, the employee still couldn't see it. He sat in the courtroom in disbelief, crying in frustration at the injustice that had been done to him. Inside a legal cocoon, people let their imaginations replace reality.

Philip K. Howard, Life Without Lawyers, 2009 

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