The nitty-gritty of freedom: a review of Everyday Freedom: Designing the Framework for a Flourishing Society; By Philip K. Howard (Robert VerBruggen, February 1, 2024, Washington Examiner)

Howard believes these actors need greater authority to use their own judgment, coupled with norms of reasonableness and subject to oversight through clear lines of authority, to solve problems — and that this type of freedom, which he dubs “everyday freedom” or the “freedom to do what’s right,” has disappeared as individual rights, written regulations, and legal liability have expanded.

The change began in the 1960s, when “the social and legal institutions of America were remade to try to eliminate unfair choices by people in positions of responsibility,” rooted in a growing distrust of authority and a desire to confront very real abuses of power. One effect of this shift, alas, was to suppress basic judgment and common sense, replacing them with rules so detailed no one could possibly learn them all and demands for officials to justify each decision they made, with lawsuits from private parties waiting in the wings.

This led to a sense of alienation. Human beings thrive when they draw on their intuitions and talents to solve problems, and the new system discourages exactly that. It also led to massive inefficiency, dysfunction, and distrust as people in what should be positions of power shied away from doing their duties, focusing instead on compliance and lawsuit avoidance.