Philip K. Howard (born 1948), is an American lawyer and writer. Based in New York, Howard is a noted commentator on the effects of modern law and bureaucracy on human behavior and the workings of society. He is the Founder and Chair of Common Good, a nonpartisan, nonprofit legal reform coalition which is proposing a broad overhaul of American law and government.
Howard is the author of The Death of Common Sense (1995), a bestseller which chronicles how overly detailed law has similar effects as central planning; The Collapse of the Common Good (2002), which describes how fear of litigation corrodes daily interaction; and Life Without Lawyers (2009), which proposes rebuilding reliable legal boundaries to define an open field of freedom where people are free to focus on accomplishing their goals, not protecting themselves from legal interference. Howard is a periodic contributor to the op-ed pages of the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, and serves as a correspondent for The Atlantic.com. He also regularly speaks at universities, judicial conferences, think tanks, and other conferences, and has testified before both houses of the U.S. Congress.
Howard has attracted broad support for his ideas. In September 2010, New York Times columnist David Brooks highlighted Howard’s work on “the responsibility deficit” and embraced his solution for a “great streamlining,” calling it “the crucial theme of the moment”. Howard’s speech at the 2010 TED conference was praised by TED’s current CEO, Chris Anderson, as “stunning” and something that he wished “every member of Congress, every Supreme Court justice would see”. Former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley praised Howard’s Life Without Lawyers as “a real wake-up call from one of America’s finest public minds,” while Washington Post columnist George Will deemed it “2009’s most needed book on public affairs.” In November 2010, Howard was a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where he talked about starting a movement to streamline government and restore individual responsibility at every level of society.
Trial lawyers and consumer groups are Howard's most vocal critics. They have accused him of having a “deep disregard for public use of the justice system” and favoring corporate over consumer interests. He has also been accused of offering a vision of American society that is too narrow, as Dahlia Lithwick writes in her Newsweek review of Life Without Lawyers: “… the one thing scarier than a bus full of lawyers is a bus without them."
Howard has worked closely with leaders of both major political parties in the United States. He wrote the introduction to Vice President Al Gore's Common Sense Government, and has also advised a number of governors, including Democrats Lawton Chiles of Florida and Zell Miller of Georgia and Republicans Jeb Bush of Florida and Mitch Daniels of Indiana. He was also a special adviser on regulatory simplification to Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Arthur Levitt.
Howard is a prominent civic leader in New York City, responsible for chairing the committee that installed the “Tribute in Light” memorial for victims of the September 11 attacks, and is Chair Emeritus of the Municipal Art Society.