Audio Clips

15 July 2008

Not In My Back Yard

I had a conversation with a friend of mine over the weekend and I asked about a particular ballot initiative that had been making its way through the process in Oregon to be voted on. It is an initiative that would limit the percentage of a judgment that could go to the plaintiff's attorney. Naturally, attorneys are indignant that peoples' right to make contract should be tampered with. How dare we insinuate ourselves into the relationship between a client and their attorney! Whatever amount we deem necessary, we should be able to charge the client!

Now, first off, don't get me wrong. I believe that attorneys SHOULD have the ability to contract with a client for whatever the client wishes to do. If a client deems the attorney worth 90% of the judgment then so be it. That is a founding principle of contract law. I simply find it ironic that after decades of lawyers restricting contract law for every other profession in the country the lawyers find themselves the target of the same regulations.

For example, in my profession there are maximums that can be charged to a client in commission. This is the result of decades of regulations that have come through attorneys (see Elliot Spitzer) being outraged, outraged I tell you, at the "criminal" rates that were charged to clients.

Attorneys sue Microsoft because they believe that Microsoft has a monopoly on operating system software. (I'm not here to argue whether they are a monopoly or not, that's another discussion. They're not, by the way.) And yet, my ability to purchase Microsoft products is just as much a part of contract law as me signing a contract to hire a realtor. So lawyers feel free to butt into my ability to contract with Microsoft to purchase their operating system, but see no hypocrisy in preventing oversight on their own contracts.

It reminds me of the poem First They Came:

In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.

It is difficult to recognize our own biases which is why it is so important that we be aware that we may be biased. That step will at least help us recognize that intellectual honesty demands we evaluate the origin of our judgments and ask ourselves if we are consistent in them.

Workers vs Owners

I particularly enjoyed Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's quote:

Labour believes in turning workers against owners; we believe in turning workers into owners.


Margaret Thatcher's Impact on History

For those who haven't subscribed yet, Hillsdale College has a FREE publication called Imprimis. This month's article is about Margaret Thatcher and her partnership with Reagan and the impact they were both able to have in a 10 year period. I found it inspiring as John O'Sullivan, a former special advisor to Prime Minister Thatcher, spoke of the changes that happened because of the principled approach of world leaders toward human rights.

I think too often I get frustrated and hopeless about the fight against tyranny, but Mr. O'Sullivan points out that old ways are "merely dormant". It is possible to awaken a society's sense of "vigorous virtues". He says:

Cultural transformations of nations and societies imposed by governments nearly always fail in the long run. The old ways only look dead; in reality, they are merely dormant. They are the resources of our civilization and they can be revived to meet new challenges.

If Lady Thatcher demonstrated that truth in matters economic, she believes today that the resources of the Anglo-American political tradition of ordered liberty are not exhausted either. She believes that the virtues of that tradition—dispersed authority, open debate, popular sovereignty, spontaneous social evolution—are not dead, merely dormant.

I find myself needing to believe that our country has those virtues but that they lie dormant, in need of resuscitation. That is the main goal of this blog, though it is read by a tiny, tiny number of people. I hope that someday the character can be found in our country to step forward and redeem the Constitution from its shabby treatment.