The Nonsense Factory: The Making and Breaking of the American Legal System

The Nonsense Factory: The Making and Breaking of the American Legal System

by Bruce Cannon Gibney


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A withering and witty examination of how the American legal system, burdened by complexity and untrammeled growth, fails Americans and threatens the rule of law itself, by the acclaimed author of A Generation of Sociopaths.

Our trial courts conduct hardly any trials, our correctional systems do not correct, and the rise of mandated arbitration has ushered in a shadowy system of privatized "justice." Meanwhile, our legislators can't even follow their own rules for making rules, while the rule of law mutates into a perpetual state of emergency. The legal system is becoming an incomprehensible farce. How did this happen?

In The Nonsense Factory, Bruce Cannon Gibney shows that over the past seventy years, the legal system has dangerously confused quantity with quality and might with legitimacy. As the law bloats into chaos, it staggers on only by excusing itself from the very commands it insists that we obey, leaving Americans at the mercy of arbitrary power. By examining the system as a whole, Gibney shows that the tragedies often portrayed as isolated mistakes or the work of bad actors — police misconduct, prosecutorial overreach, and the outrages of imperial presidencies — are really the inevitable consequences of law's descent into lawlessness.

The first book to deliver a lucid, comprehensive overview of the entire legal system, from the grandeur of Constitutional theory to the squalid workings of Congress, The Nonsense Factory provides a deeply researched and witty examination of America's state of legal absurdity, concluding with sensible options for reform.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316475266
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 05/14/2019
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 785,920
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Bruce Cannon Gibney is the author of A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America. A venture capitalist and writer, Gibney began as an attorney specializing in securities litigation and financial regulation. He was an early investor in PayPal, and later joined Founders Fund and co-founded Carmenta Management. He and his colleagues have funded Facebook, Spotify, Palantir Technologies, SpaceX, Lyft, AirBnB, Coupang, and DeepMind.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii

Preface: The Exception Is the Rule xvii

Introduction xxiii

Chapter 1 The Value of Law: More Than Just a Nuisance 1

Chapter 2 Jurisprudence: Making and Breaking Law 23

Chapter 3 Legal Education: The School as Scandal 45

Chapter 4 Legislatures: Outsourced Sausage-Making 71

Chapter 5 Bureaucracy: Empire by Form 104

Chapter 6 Judges: Robots, Umpires, or Gods? 132

Chapter 7 Arbitration: Privatized Justice 170

Chapter 8 Legal Economics: Putting a Price on Priceless 193

Chapter 9 Prosecutors and Defenders: Angels of Vengeance and Mercy 220

Chapter 10 Police: The Thick Blue Line 243

Chapter 11 Proof: The Evidence for Evidence 277

Chapter 12 Remedies: How Many Wrongs Make a Right? 306

Chapter 13 Failing from the Top Down: Imperial Presidencies and Constitutional Erosion 342

Conclusion: Proposals Modest and Otherwise 368

Appendix: A Binding Illustration of Why People Hate the Law 380

Acknowledgments 387

Notes 390

Index 491

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