The Litigation Lover

Politics and policy.
March 6 1999 3:30 AM

The Litigation Lover

Why hasn't Clinton learned to hate the law?

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Microgovernment does not seem to cost anything--no new budget lines, no new bureaucracies--but of course it does. Financially, it shuffles expenses from government to someone else, usually the person being sued. Politically, it's anti-democratic, replacing congressional and executive branch decision-making. "It is a kind of three-card monte," says Olson. "You shift the responsibility to the branch of government that citizens can't do anything about." And it makes an already litigious society more so, afflicting more and more people with onerous discovery, bottomless legal expenses, and grotesque but legal invasions of privacy. (The United States, Olson notes, has far laxer discovery rules than any other developed nation.)

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The GOP is reluctant to challenge the law's tyranny. During Flytrap, many Republicans conveniently abandoned their objections to wide-ranging sex harassment litigation, endorsing broad discovery in order to nail Clinton. But even those who insist that the legal system is out of control are afraid to challenge it: Every time they have done so, Clinton and the Democrats have trounced them, depicting them (with some justice) as shills for big corporations that don't want to be accountable to employees and customers.

Can anything change Clinton's mind? After all, he has suffered through legal hell once and has emerged unaffected. Maybe, just maybe, if he were sued again ...

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