Lawyers have Ruined Everything

I had a thought as I was walking home from work today. We’ve been having conversations about “corporate values”, a term I moderately loathe, as while employees are expected to be exemplary examples, the corporation itself – meaning its officers – tend to get free passes when the critical issues arise. I hadn’t been dwelling on the values – they’re almost always the same (and ignored in the same ways), but suddenly two of them popped into my head: Integrity and responsibility.

More specifically: that we no longer have those in our society as a whole. Examples exist, yes, but when it comes to our expectations – do we know that someone will act in good faith? – we’re almost always disappointed. My father’s era relied on handshakes and handwritten orders, with discrepancies solved over a scotch. You could say that the world has just gotten more complex, more integrated, and requires more specificity than those simpler days, but I see it as less respect for those qualities, leading to their loss.

In short, I blame the lawyers.

I assume this started in the 80s – all the problems in our present world seem to have really got going in that decade – when we (that’s a collective “we”, I was a scant teenager at the time) ceased solving problems over a three-martini lunch and started using lawyers as tactical weapons. Lawyers went from being the ones who ensured compliance with the law to being the surgical tools that bent rules, tied up courts, and made “red tape” a tool all in the interests of greed and control, traits that bled into the general lawsuit-laden populace.

The handshake was supplanted with a subpoena, the idea that someone would be true and honest became utterly moot, unless there was a legally-backed statement. We’ve let two of our greatest personal qualities be distilled into a piece of paper, often written in an impenetrable language.

Lawyers have taken away the integrity and responsibility that we relied on for centuries, and we let them. A bigger question is if we’ll ever get them back.

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