See You in Court – How the Right Made America a Lawsuit Nation is Thomas Geoghegan’s third book, published in 2007. And no, I did not read them all at the same time. It has just taken me a while to sort them out, to see clearly what he shows us so clearly. If sometimes in a roundabout way that wanders here and there, and then comes back to the point, to the moral of the story, with oftentimes a (cha)grin to the Truth of the situation.
This is not a grim book – it’s partly a history book, often quirky, with personal notes thrown in, plus smiles and outright laughs are occasionally thrown in. It is a serious book, looking seriously at the negative and presenting The Plan, to allow us to look seriously at the potential positive.
His basic premise is that the destruction of the unions, which he sees as a deliberate and semi-coordinated series of acts over time with the immediate intent of leaving companies with no opponents and strong supporters in Congress, left individuals with no recourse but law suits. He also believes that the destruction of the unions is what aided and abetted the destruction of our industrial base – which is the topic of Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?, published in 2010, which I’m reading now.
So instead of going to the union steward and getting an accommodation for a need or a grievance, with the steward working it out with a company manager, now folk have to sue one by one.
He also shows the degradation of trust between the consumer (or perhaps the consumed) and the company. Who among us believes that all that paperwork about our credit cards is done to help us out? Turns out our instincts are right – that small print is basically to get us to give up our rights and agree to binding arbitration – which over 90% of the time comes out to the company’s benefit. Hmmmmmm.
He does all this from the point of view of a Harvard-educated labor lawyer in Chicago. A major sentence in the book, on page 187 – ‘What I’m against is the older forms of contract and trust law breaking down, resulting in costlier and meaner kinds of tort.’ He sees deregulation as breaking down social contract trust as well.
Another topic of conversation is Bush v. Gore, and the odd behavior of the Supreme Court, which cost us all so much, especially in trust. If we had been Ukraine, or perhaps if that had happened today, we might have a very different outcome – my comment, not Geoghegan’s.
This book also really takes on the courts, as well as the law, the Congress – the system. And points out that when folk don’t feel they have a say in the outcome, they are much less likely to vote. We see the results of this breakdown of trust everywhere. Geoghegan takes us behind all that, and explains how it happened.
A great book for Millenials – in understanding the country they are about to inherit.