Jurismania: The Madness of American Law

Jurismania: The Madness of American Law

Jurismania: The Madness of American Law

Jurismania: The Madness of American Law


In Jurismania, Paul Campos asserts that our legal system is beginning to exhibit symptoms of serious mental illness. Trials and appeals that stretch out for years and cost millions, 100 page appellate court opinions, 1,000 page statutes before which even lawyers tremble with fear, and a public that grows more litigious every day all testify to a judicial overkill that borders on obsessive-compulsive disorder. Campos locates the source of such madness, paradoxically, in our worship of reason and the resulting belief that all problems are amenable to legal solutions. In insightful discussions of a wide range of cases, from NCAA regulations of student-athletes to the Simpson trial, from our most intractable social disputes over abortion and physician-assisted suicide to the war on drugs and the increasingly fastidious attempts to regulate behavior in public spaces, Campos shows that the mania for more law exacerbates the very problems it seeks to remedy. In his final chapter, the author calls instead for a humbling recognition of the limits of reason and a much more modest role for our legal system. Clearly written and laced with a delicious wit, Jurismania gives us a CAT-scan of the American legal mind at work. It reveals not only that the patient is even worse off than we imagined, but also clarifies the many reasons why.


"I always wanted you to admire my fasting," said the hunger artist. "We do admire it," said the overseer, affably. "But you shouldn't admire it," said the hunger artist. "Well then we don't admire it," said the overseer, "but why shouldn't we admire it?" "Because I can't help it," replied the hunger artist. "I couldn't find food I liked. If I had, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else."

Franz kafka, "A Hunger Artist"

In his book Eat Fat Richard Klein points to "a growing awareness that the whole [American] culture of dieting and rigid exercise is the root cause of the fat explosion." Klein believes that "the diet system produces the disease that the system is charged with curing. Fat is decreed to be poison, but the antidote, diet and exercise, makes more fat. . . . There is reason to think that if doctors stopped threatening people about their weight they would be thinner."

Klein's account of why Americans are fat taps into the deep psychology of obsessive behavior. His is a sort of "anti-diet" book, based on the insight that it is in the nature of obsessions to cause us to pursue something in such an excessive way that we not only fail in our quest, but end up producing the opposite of whatever it was we were pursuing in the first place.

This book is, in part, about how the obsessive pursuit of law in contemporary American culture tends to produce a kind of bureaucratized anarchy. It is intended for the general reader whose experience of American law has made him or her wonder if there might . . .

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