Consent and Coercion
SO in the fullness of time, the liability courts worked their way through the Mock Turtle's four branches of arithmetic: ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision. There was ambition aplenty at the beginning: to make life safer and more generous quickly, without the mess or fuss of working through markets or elections. Distraction followed soon enough, as the reformers found themselves hacking through a dense underbrush of ancient legal principle: the inviolability of contracts, the need for a determinate party on both sides of the case, the requirement that litigation be ripe but not stale, the requirements that genuine fault be found and genuine proof of causation be nailed down. Uglification was then inevitable: a collapse of private insurance, a decline in innovation, alarming reverses in safety itself, and a gradual contraction of other rights under pressure from the endless expansion of the right to sue. Finally, they arrived at derision. There are the have-you-heard-the-latest stories. A jury awards $986,000 to a woman who claims she lost her psychic powers after a CAT scan, a contestant in a refrigerator-carrying footrace recovers for injury to his back, two men who stuffed a hot-air balloon into a commercial laundry dryer (which then exploded) recover from the manufacturer of the machine, the occupant of a telephone booth demolished by a drunk driver collects from the booth manufacturer. And there are the cartoons.