Kill All The Lawyers

Per Hot Air, the demonization of the informed takes an expected turn, with a Republican candidate questioning why we need lawyers in the Senate:

Our candidate’s statistic is less remarkable when one looks to the history: a full 25 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were lawyers; another 5 doctors or scientists; and a only 15 “merchants.”  7 of the first 10 presidents were lawyers (Washington, Jackson, and Harrison are the exceptions). The architects of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Jefferson and Adams, were both lawyers, and Adams an unpopular one, following his defense of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.

None of this should surprise; we’re a particularly legalistic culture, owing partially to our British heritage, but more, perhaps, to the country’s foundational conceit, that the common law, which required mediators to interpret and apply, is inadequate to the defense of liberty. Our particularly Protestant approach to constitutionalism defines our respect for the laaw, but also compels some distrust of lawyers, because average men and women should be able to understand and interact with the law. This is clearly true. But a decent respect for specialization is all that’s needed to understand that lawyers might be over-represented in political careers because they’re particularly trained for those careers. Shooting holes in statutory regimes is what we’re payed to do; and the guys that know how to break the system probably should be in charge of keeping it in working order.

Interesting, too, how brazenly the Republican Party, or at least this Republican candidate, is willing to write off the entire lawyer vote, and any fundraising that group could provide. It’s true that lawyers are a particularly liberal bunch. I suppose the right’s viscerally appealing but intellectually hollow approach to constitutionalism has been repelling those who know what they’re talking about for years; but stunts like this won’t help.

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10 comments

  1. Can’t find the post right now – maybe Douthat – but someone recently just speculated that you will see a lot more business managers in the future (think Meg Whitman). It makes sense with a government as complicated as ours and a fiscal system that needs decades of dedicated attention from people that actually understand the economic impact of policies. I don’t care what the politicians’ former careers were, but I can hope there are a lot more people with practical experience.

    1. Then shouldn’t you hope to see economists elected instead? Government is not a business, and moving from micro- to macroeconomy is less intuitive than you’d think.

    2. Besides which, both Presidents Bush Senior and Junior were business managers, and they didn’t do too well on ‘balancing the budget’. Unlike Clinton, who was, incidentally, a lawyer.

      1. If it’s balancing the budget you want, then shouldn’t we be hoping for more accountants? :-)

        1. I do not trust accountants. They’re prone to heinous acts of rebellion and accountancy.

          For that matter, I don’t trust people who want to “balance the budget” right in the middle of a recession, either. That’s precisely the result of thinking that what’s good for a business must necessarily be good for the government as well.

      2. Google ‘peace dividend’. Then Google ‘dot com bubble’. Then Google ‘104th Congress’.

        Then you’ll have your explanation of the Clinton budget.

        1. So you mean that government is both more complicated in itself and part of an even greater and much more complex economic reality which is not reducible to something as simple as the profession of the people in charge?

          Sure, I’ll buy that.

          1. You keep poking but I don’t really understand your overall complaint. I said I would like to see more business managers…not that we shouldn’t elect other types of professionals. I’d also like to see more historians, teachers, doctors, etc. Want to try and find fault with that too?

    3. At most levels, the difference between “lawyer” and “businessman” is thinner than you’d think. Business litigation, as it were, involves a lot of business. It’s tinker/tailor/soldier/spy over here.

  2. But ACG, will you fight for the MONEY I DESERVE(TM)?

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