Is this left-wing fantasy or unpleasant truth?
Roughly speaking, most European countries have adopted a regulatory model in order to keep corporate abuse in check. There are drawbacks to this model, but it does result in relatively few lawsuits. Conversely, in the United States, business-friendly conservatives have fought to keep regulation light. This often leaves lawsuits, which are inevitably less predictable and more arbitrary than regulation, as the only avenue that ordinary citizens have for checking corporate abuse.
But Geoghegan points out that it’s not just inadequate regulation that has led to the rise in torts. It’s also the demise of unions. In the past, he says, employee grievances from unionized workers were mostly handled via arbitration, which is quick and easy. But with arbitration mostly gone, largely replaced by a mass of confusing and poorly enforced civil rights legislation, the only remedy an employee has if she’s unjustly fired is a lawsuit, and this is fundamentally a more scorched-earth process than old style arbitration…
Is the Vioxx decision in fact the best argument for the FDA? Should we move, as Alex has suggested, to make FDA-approved drugs immune from such lawsuits? Can we precommit to taking certain actions out of the legal nexus in this fashion? File this one under "Top Ten Topics I Wish People Would Study More."