Cyrus Dugger

The Tort Reform Movement: Trying to Have A Cake and Eat it Too

This really insightful Washington Post article by Steven Pearlstein supports and complements points made by Scott Lemieux in his previous post The Bait and Switch at the Heart of “Tort Reform.” In short, Scott’s piece and this article lay out one of the primary problems of the tort “reform” movement’s argument: they want to have less lawsuits and less regulation at the same time.

The problem with this approach is you just can’t have it both ways and have a healthy and functioning society.

Scott’s piece and this article are both a really great read.

No Longer No. 1, and No Wonder By Steven Pearlstein Wednesday, September 27, 2006; Page D01 On the surface, two studies out this week seem to raise warning flags about the competitiveness of the U.S. economy.

One, the annual ranking from the World Economic Forum -- the elite business organization that runs the annual winter schmooze-fest in Davos, Switzerland -- finds that the United States has fallen from No. 1, a position it shared with Finland for most of a decade, to an unsettling sixth place.

And the National Association of Manufacturers, along with the Manufacturers Alliance, is scheduled to release an update of an earlier study today showing that the burdens of regulation taxation, litigation and health care are even greater than they were in 2002, when the "cost gap" between U.S. companies and those of our largest trading partners, was 22.4 percent.

The predictable response from the business community will be to use these studies to warn of impending economic ruin unless the government adopts the Republican agenda of less regulation, lower taxes, tort reform, and relieving companies of health-care and pension costs.

Don't be fooled. These reports speak to the embarrassing failure of a decade of Republican rule in improving U.S. competitiveness. Business taxes, as a percentage of anything you want to measure, are at their lowest level in decades. The Bush White House has subjected new regulations to rigorous cost-benefit analysis. Several reforms make it less attractive for shareholders, workers and consumers to file frivolous lawsuits, but not necessarily for businesses. And in case you hadn't noticed, businesses have already made tremendous strides in shifting health-care and pension costs to workers.

In fact, an alternative reading of the new reports suggests that the business community needs to do some serious thinking about competitiveness and economic policy.

(continue reading article)

If you or your organization is interested in learning more about or working on these types of civil justice issues, please feel free to contact me at

Cyrus Dugger
Senior Fellow in Civil Justice
Drum Major Institute for Public Policy

Cyrus Dugger: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 2:13 PM, Oct 02, 2006 in
Permalink | Email to Friend


The National Association of Manufacturers is a disgrace. Their main agenda is to promote capital-heavy, people-weak trade agreements like CAFTA, repeal the estate tax so people like Paris Hilton can have their fortune, and destroy the health system through employee savings accounts. All of these benefit neither small domestic manufacturing businesses nor manufacturing workers, only mega-corporations.

Posted by: mfs | October 2, 2006 7:53 PM

NAM also endorses convicted felons, too.

Apparently, being a traitor to your country is no big deal to NAM, as long as you vote their way.

Posted by: Justinian Lane | October 2, 2006 9:01 PM

Lane is dishonest in three regards:

1) NAM never "endorsed a convicted felon." It gave an honor to someone who was later convicted of a felony.

2) After the conviction, NAM withdrew the honor from its web site, so it apparently does care whether an honoree is a felon.

3) And the felony wasn't treason, either.

The site's authors' continuing lack of commitment to honesty is notable.

Back on topic: NAM argues that the economy needs less litigation and less regulation. Pearlstein doesn't argue that NAM is wrong, but argues that NAM's goal is not politically feasible: "This isn't an economic argument so much as a political one." Why isn't it politically feasible? Because the litigation lobby demands both more litigation and more regulation, damn the consequences to the economy as a whole so long as it fills lawyers' pockets. And Dugger is somehow proud that organizations like Lemieux's are making improvements to the economy infeasible through demagoguery. Does Dugger read what he cites, or is his reading comprehension that poor?

Posted by: Ted | October 3, 2006 9:08 AM

If Ted would have read the links I posted, he would have noted that his good friends at NAM kept their endorsement of Cunningham up on their sites for quite some time after his conviction. This despite my e-mail to John Engler. I know he received them, as no less then seven visits to my articles came from NAM the day I sent the email and the day after.

I also would note that while NAM may have stealthily removed information about Cunningham from their website, they still have not stripped him of his award.

Finally, Ted once again puts words in my mouth: I didn't say he was convicted of treason. I said he was a traitor to his country. I still stand by that statement.

P.S. Am I the only one who laughed out loud when I saw that Ted was accusing someone else of demagoguery? Ted, after all, tries to exploit the prejudices against trial lawyers to sell a corporate agenda to voters...

Posted by: Justinian Lane | October 3, 2006 9:34 AM

Hi Ted,

Thanks for your comments on Tort Deform.

Ted, once again your vague insults make me feel as if you do not feel your arguments are forceful on their own merits.

You should be able to communicate without hurling vague insults about "reading comprehension," but alas maybe you cannot.

I don't really get your point above.

You say...

"Because the litigation lobby demands both more litigation and more regulation, damn the consequences to the economy as a whole so long as it fills lawyers' pockets."

Where is your support for this statement?

Please explain.

Posted by: Cyrus Dugger | October 3, 2006 10:14 AM