Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fighting the Fine Print in DC

Washington, DC is the epicenter of paper. We produce the regulations and laws that govern the nation and influence the world.

But who reads these laws, regulations, and even contracts? Who has time? Who even has the knowledge to understand all those words? When Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts admits that he doesn't read the fine print, you know something has to be fixed. Judge Richard Posner, a highly respected and brilliant judge on the US Court of Appeals, recently acknowledged that he didn't even read all the documents he signed for his home equity loan. "For my home equity loan, I got hundreds of pages of documentation; I didn’t read, I just signed," he said.

Now contracts are different from laws and regulations, but these all suffer from the same overwhelming and unnecessary problems: Too many words and too complicated syntax. It's arguable that the current foreclosure crisis would be less problematic if there were less paper.

A British company, Gamestation, added language to its standard license agreement that said:
By placing an order via this Web site on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to grant Us a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should We wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from or one of its duly authorised minions....we reserve the right to serve such notice in 6 (six) foot high letters of fire, however we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) do not believe you have an immortal soul, b) have already given it to another party, or c) do not wish to grant Us such a license, please click the link below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your transaction.
Gamestation now legally owns the souls of 7,500 people.

At this point you're probably saying to yourself, "I don't read software or website license agreements or mortgage documents either." And you're probably also shrugging your shoulders because you think that there's no way out of the morass of legal words.

But there is a way out. And not only that, but the way out leads to a much more productive and content society. Watch how it can be done:


  1. Excellent! About time. But there will be some flack from the lawyers that like 'legalize,' to keep people ignorant.
    It wasn't done just because they like all the long words! :)

  2. Well, maybe they do. . .