Only In America…

…the land of abundant lawyers, could a debate like this take place.

It’s not that there’s no merit to the observations made both by SHG and Professor Campos.  It’s just that each of them is seeing the problem through the very narrow prism of their own professional bent.

In the case of SHG, the state of the legal profession is addressed by climbing up on a soapbox rickety from overuse.  Young lawyers are the slackoisie.  The legal academy is out of touch and incompetent.  Lawyers – other than SHG and a few selected friends – lack integrity.

Professor Campos, on the other hand, thinks in terms of well worn and at this point quite obsolete lawyer “employment” models.  Success is defined solely by obtaining “employment” with an income high enough to enjoy life and service whatever law school debt you have within a few months of graduating.  Supposedly this was the norm in some storied past of the legal profession.

But to me the problems with the profession simply mirror developments in society generally:  the worship of power and its more peaceful worldly mechanism, money.  I say ‘worship’, because that’s what we are talking about.  There is nothing wrong with wanting and earning and having money, indeed it is an essential feature of civilized life.  But if the pursuit of money is not checked by moral considerations it increasingly becomes a naked struggle for power and ease.

Remember, love of ease is the flip side of the love of power coin.  Indeed, power is precisely the ability to do the difficult with ease.  This never actually happens, of course.  The difficult is – by definition – difficult.  The person who seems to be powerful is simply foisting the difficulty onto someone else.

Oh, where to begin.  I was looking at various Wikipedia pages for institutions of higher learning, probably prompted by our dear Professor Campos’ writings.  In particular I was noting private institutions’ “endowments”.  It’s an interesting subject.  Not surprisingly, the most prestigious institutions, like the Ivy League ones, have huge endowments, all in the billions of dollars with Harvard of course alone at the top with some $30 billion.  Indeed it is fair to say that unless you have an endowment north of $1 billion, your institution has little or no prestige.  Check out this list.  Almost all of them have endowments over $1 billion, and the two that don’t are, well, close enough.

Money follows prestige and vice versa, in a self reinforcing loop.  I’d call the process a perpetual motion machine but then even I am smart enough to know that there is no such thing.  The pendulum swings, reaches its furthest extension and swings back.

Harvard is as Harvard does.  And what does Harvard do with that gargantuan endowment?  According to some critics, nothingNothing good anyway.

I mean, once we’ve feathered our nest it’s time to do something worthwhile.  But it seems as if the only worthwhile thing that occurs to people is…..more nest feathering.  You would think that within reason a few billion is enough for a college or university to hoard, even Harvard.  You don’t jack it up to $30 billion without, you know, losing focus.

Do they do this because they are horrible people?  No.  At least, I don’t think so.

This is another of those areas where ideas matter and it runs very deep.  I mean, I say they lose focus, but I’m also sure they wouldn’t agree.  Nevertheless, universities were an outgrowth of seminaries, they are a legacy of the Church.  Check out the coats of arms and mottos.  Always Latin.  Always some lofty principle.  ‘Knowledge and Faith’ for Duke.  ‘Under God’s Power She Flourishes‘ for Princeton.

Move up the food chain and it gets funnier:  ‘Light and Truth‘ for Yale.  Just ‘Truth’ for Harvard.

Why is it funny?  Because as institutions not one of them, sitting on their billions of dollars of “endowment”, believe in their mottos at all.  They don’t believe there is any such thing as ‘truth’ or ‘justice’ or, for that matter, God.  The disconnect between what is professed and what is actual is absolute.  Long ago, all of those institutions abandoned every such notion and embraced….well, what?  Ostensibly, many things:  social Darwinism, atheism, political “science”, Marxism, the sexual revolution, Keynesianism, elitism, central banking, a ‘living’ constitution.  But in practical effect, they embraced…..nothing.  In essence all the great institutions of higher learning in the United States are functionally nihilist.  Their ‘endowments’ are like a pile of money being sucked down into a black hole.

In this sense, the legal profession is not just similar, but exactly the same.  Campos misses this, and so does SHG.  So does everyone, it seems sometimes to me.

What is the ‘value added’ to the world from the law school graduate that Campos calls a success?  You know, the one who graduates top of the class Ivy League and gets a job on Wall Street where he can help ruin his country economically and then move to the US Attorney’s office where he can prosecute poor people for food stamp fraud, trampling the weak all the way up the ladder to become a Supreme Court Justice?

Did I just imply that was wrong?  How quaint.  I read the mottos of their formative educational institutions and thought they meant something.  Silly me.  Still, that’s where the problem lies, that we think of someone like that as a success, instead of a leech, which is much closer to the truth of the matter.

For his part, SHG is simply a gruffer and more straightforward version.  There is no justice, he says over and over.  Nothing is true.

Well, if there is no justice and nothing is true then nothing means anything and what is the argument against just building up your endowment by whatever means and just sitting on it while you beat your chest and exclaim to the world that your $30 billion means you are the best and the brightest and never mind the actual results in the world, which increasingly look like a disaster but that’s only to lesser people who are taken in by the things we profess in our mottos and not our actual conduct in the world.

If no one is truly guilty and no one is truly innocent because nothing is true in the first place, Harvard’s motto notwithstanding, then what is a wrongful conviction?  One that is unconstitutionally obtained?  Why should the constitution mean anything?  Oh, wait.  It doesn’t.  It lives, and means different things all the time, which is to say it means nothing.

Yeah, it runs very, very deep.  Nihilism is stupid, and in the end boring as hell, but the destruction it wreaks on the institutions and societies that come to believe it can be very exciting.

I would like to be spared all that excitement.  I’ve had my fill.

There is plenty of work for lawyers to do, they just have to do it.  They will have made significant progress when Harvard’s endowment is back to a more sensible range of, oh, $5 billion or so, and colleges like, say, this one are up around $1 billion.  Ameliorating the current imbalance in institutions of higher learning and the legal profession is part of the task of ameliorating the imbalances generally.


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