Part One in a series about mandatory arbitration. Check back next week for another installment.
Ar-bi-TRA-tion (är b -TR SH n). n. — An alternative method of resolving disputes when two parties present respective, individual sides of a complaint to an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators. The arbitrator, who is supposed to be neutral, then weighs the facts and arguments of both parties before deciding the dispute. Arbitration may be voluntary or mandatory.
Segue to Binding Mandatory Arbitration (BMA), a horse of a darker color. Mandatory arbitration is a mouthful of a phrase considered off-radar by many Americans oblivious to its precipitous and evermore-pervasive role in nearly every aspect of daily decision-making. Scarcely any aspect of our culture is exempt from its effects. Preposterous, you say? ‘And wouldn’t it be preposterous to claim that men must exist for their plumbing, not the plumbing for the men’ (Ayn Rand).
Mandatory arbitration, by name, is not voluntary: It is forced, by definition: Each day American citizens waive off oppressive-looking contract agreements soaked in fine print before hurriedly signing on a dotted line in larger print at the end. It seems foolish to plow through pages of legalese when we live in a constitutional domain where the Individual is sheltered by inalienable rights and personal privilege? At least we perceive this and, by so believing, sign dozens of lightly surfaced contracts to purchase cars, TVs, telephones; apply for credit cards and mortgages; take out student loans and insurance policies; send our kids off to summer camp; hire nannies, construction companies, contractors, landscapers; admit loved ones to nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
The comprehensive list of affected categories is infinitely longer, but you get the idea. In today’s society, scarcely any aspect of life is exempt from the long arm of mandatory arbitration, because we know not what we sign. Furthermore, it is legal.