Philip K. Howard

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Philip K. Howard
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Philip K. Howard

Philip K. Howard is an American lawyer and writer. He has written on the effects of modern law and bureaucracy on human behavior and the workings of society. He started Common Good, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization which advocates simplifying government.[1][2]


Howard is the author of The Death of Common Sense (1995),[2] The Collapse of the Common Good (2002),[3] Life Without Lawyers (2009),[4] The Rule of Nobody (2014),[5] and Try Common Sense (2019).[6] The Death of Common Sense, which criticized over-regulation and excessive litigation, became a bestseller.[2] Howard also founded and heads Common Good, a nonprofit that advocates for simpler, goal-oriented regulation and reliable boundaries on litigation. The organization's Board of Directors has included Bill Bradley, Tom Kean, George McGovern, and Alan Simpson.[2]

In a partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health, Howard proposed special health courts for the handling of medical malpractice suits.[7][8] In 2012, Howard curated a six-month series for The Atlantic called “America the Fixable,” which featured numerous guest writers giving their reform ideas on specific topics.[9] In January 2017, Howard argued that the collective bargaining in the current civil service system is unconstitutional and should be replaced by executive order.[10][11] In a 2019 paper published by the Center on Capitalism and Society at Columbia University, he explored “Bureaucracy vs. Democracy: Examining the bureaucratic causes of public failure, economic repression, and voter alienation.”[12] In a paper published by the C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University Law School, he makes the case for “Restoring Accountability to the Executive Branch.”[13]

In April 2017, Howard joined President Donald Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum,[14] advising on infrastructure permitting.[15] His 2015 report "Two Years, Not Ten Years," detailing the economic and environmental costs of delaying infrastructure approvals, has influenced the Trump Administration's infrastructure proposals, including their call for approvals to be made within two years.[1][16] Critics such as the Natural Resources Defense Council disagree with the report's findings, arguing that money, not permits, is the reason infrastructure projects are delayed, and that Howard's report relied on outdated statistics. The Trump administration's infrastructure proposals, released in February 2018 and July 2020, contained many of the recommendations from the report.[17]

In a 2019 article for a Capitol Hill newspaper, Howard characterized his political perspective as radical centrist.[18] In June 2020, Howard launched the nonpartisan Campaign for Common Good calling for “spring cleaning commissions” and proposing simplified government regulation in areas like healthcare and education.[19] Howard is a former chairman of the Municipal Art Society of New York,[20] and was co-recipient of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal in 2020.[21] He also chaired the committee that organized the Tribute in Light memorial for victims of the September 11 attacks.[22][23]


Howard's work has been praised by New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist George Will, the latter of whom called Life Without Lawyers "2009's most needed book on public affairs".[24][25] In contrast, Consumer Watchdog has accused Howard of having "a deep disregard for public use of the justice system"[26] and favoring corporate over consumer interests. In a Newsweek review of Life Without Lawyers, Dahlia Lithwick criticized Howard for ignoring the value of other areas of law when pushing for tort and malpractice reform, writing that "the one thing scarier than a bus full of lawyers is a bus without them."[27]

Between 2010 and 2014, Howard was a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart three times, where he talked about starting a movement to streamline government and restore individual responsibility at every level of society.[28][29][30]

The Rule of Nobody was among the finalists for the Hayek Book Prize of the Manhattan Institute in both 2015 and 2016.[31]

Writing in The Washington Post, Robert Litan described Try Common Sense as a call "for pushing a giant reset button" and noted that Howard "makes a convincing case that in many ways government doesn't work."[32] Writing in The New York Times, Mark Green described the book as a "jeremiad against 'regulation'." [33] In April 2020, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens wrote that Howard had “the right idea” in proposing a “Recovery Authority” to help America come out of the COVID crisis.[34]


External video
video icon Booknotes interview with Howard on The Death of Common Sense, February 12, 1995, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Howard on The Lost Art of Drawing the Line, May 8, 2001, C-SPAN
video icon After Words interview with Howard on Life Without Lawyers, February 14, 2009, C-SPAN
video icon Panel discussion with Howard on The Rule of Nobody, May 13, 2014, C-SPAN

Howard grew up in Eastern Kentucky, the son of a Presbyterian minister.[35] He attended on scholarship Taft School, from which he received the 2018 Horace Dutton Taft Alumni Medal, Yale College, and the University of Virginia Law School.[36] He practiced law at Sullivan & Cromwell before starting a firm, Howard, Darby & Levin (later Howard, Smith & Levin).[37] In 1999, his firm merged with Covington & Burling, where Howard became Vice-Chair and, after his retirement from the partnership, became senior counsel.[38]


External video
video icon Booknotes interview with Howard on The Death of Common Sense, February 12, 1995, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Howard on The Lost Art of Drawing the Line, May 8, 2001, C-SPAN
video icon After Words interview with Howard on Life Without Lawyers, February 14, 2009, C-SPAN
video icon Panel discussion with Howard on The Rule of Nobody, May 13, 2014, C-SPAN
  • Howard, Philip K. (1995). The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America. New York: Random House (hardcover). ISBN 0-679-42994-8.
  • Howard, Philip K. (2002). The Collapse of the Common Good: How America's Lawsuit Culture Undermines Our Freedom. New York: Ballantine Books (paperback). ISBN 978-0-345-43871-3. (originally titled: The Lost Art of Drawing the Line)
  • Howard, Philip K. (2009). Life Without Lawyers: Liberating Americans from Too Much Law. New York: W. W. Norton & Company (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-393-06566-4.
  • Howard, Philip K. (2014). The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government. New York: W. W. Norton & Company (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-393-08282-1.
  • Howard, Philip K. (2019). Try Common Sense: Replacing the Failed Ideologies of Right and Left. New York: W. W. Norton & Company (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-324-00176-8.

Howard also wrote the introduction to Al Gore's book Common Sense Government.


  1. ^ a b "Trump Wants More Big Infrastructure Projects. The Obstacles Can Be Big, Too", Barry Meier, The New York Times, November 18, 2017
  2. ^ a b c d "Our Mindless Government Is Heading for a Spending Disaster", Nick Gillespie, The Daily Beast. April 10, 2014
  3. ^ “We're Reaping What We Sue”, George McGovern & Alan K. Simpson, Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2002
  4. ^ "Life Without Lawyers", Alex Altman, Time, January 27, 2009
  5. ^ "The Rule of Nobody", Jesse Singal, The Boston Globe, April 17, 2014
  6. ^ "11 New Books to Read this January", Annabel Gutterman, Time, January 4, 2019
  7. ^ "Is the Law Making Us Less Free?", National Public Radio, March 14, 2014
  8. ^ The Rise and Fall of HMOs, Jan Coombs, Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 2005, p. 253
  9. ^ "America the Fixable". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2020-08-14.
  10. ^ "Two really audacious proposals for Trump and the Republicans", Michael Barone, Washington Examiner, January 30, 2017
  11. ^ Understanding Trump, Newt Gingrich, Center Street, 2017
  12. ^ "Columbia University Center on Capitalism and Society Working Paper No. 113" (PDF).
  13. ^ "Restoring Accountability to the Executive Branch" (PDF).
  14. ^ "Philip Howard Named to President Trump's CEO Council". Covington. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  15. ^ Smith, David (2017-08-19). "Trump's infrastructure plan in ruins after wrecking ball of neo-Nazi comments". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-08-14.
  16. ^ "How a bridge connecting New Jersey and New York became a poster child for Trump's infrastructure push", Kayla Tausche and Stephanie Dhue, CNBC, February 14, 2018
  17. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Is Modernizing Federal Environmental Reviews to Accelerate America's Infrastructure Development". The White House. Retrieved 2020-08-14.
  18. ^ "A Radical Centrist Platform for 2020", Philip K. Howard, The Hill, April 13, 2019. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  19. ^ Howard, Philip K. (2020-08-11). "Could Covid Finally Disrupt the Top-Down Education Bureaucracy?". Education Next. Retrieved 2020-08-14.
  20. ^ "New Leader for Art Society", Robin Pobegrin, The New York Times, June 17, 2008
  21. ^ "Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal – The Municipal Art Society of New York". Retrieved 2020-08-14.
  22. ^ "From 88 Searchlights, an Ethereal Tribute", David W. Dunlap, The New York Times, March 4, 2002
  23. ^ "Tribute in Light", Creative Time, 2003
  24. ^ "The Responsibility Deficit", David Brooks, The New York Times, September 23, 2010
  25. ^ "Litigation Nation", George Will, Washington Post, January 11, 2009
  26. ^ “The Truth About Philip Howard’s ‘Common Good’” p. 3, The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights
  27. ^ “Imagining Life Without Lawyers”, Dahlia Lithwick, Newsweek, January 31, 2009
  28. ^ Philip K. Howard interview, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, November 18, 2010
  29. ^ Philip K. Howard interview, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, May 2, 2011
  30. ^ Philip K. Howard interview, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, June 9, 2014
  31. ^ Manhattan Institute (January 29, 2015). "The Manhattan Institute Announces Shortlist for Hayek Book Prize" (PDF). and Manhattan Institute (April 13, 2016). "Manhattan Institute Announces Hayek Book Prize Winner".
  32. ^ "To Beat D.C. Gridlock, Hire Outsiders to Rewrite All the Rules", Robert Litan, The Washington Post, February 10, 2019
  33. ^ "Three Authors Consider Contemporary Politics, Anxiously", Mark Green, The New York Times, January 20, 2019
  34. ^ Stephens, Bret (2020-04-10). "Opinion | Covid-19 and the Big Government Problem". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-08-14.
  36. ^ "Philip K. Howard, Class of 1966 - Taft School". Retrieved 2020-08-14.
  37. ^ Bumiller, Elisabeth (1998-03-04). "PUBLIC LIVES; A Dream of Glory. Penn Station's, That Is". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-08-14.
  38. ^ "A May-December Marriage of Law Firms". The Washington Post.

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