Friday, October 28, 2011

The Law of Climate Change Denial

Ethon has noticed some interesting stuff going on in Boulder, a formerly anonymous blogger, who turns out to be a University of Colorado law professor has outed the law school scam.

Law school is, in terms of educational credentials, the last stop for many people in a social game that they have been brought up to play ever since, 20 years ago, their yuppie overachiever parents agonized over how to get them into the "right" preschool. That game is very expensive, in terms of what it requires in both economic and cultural capital. . .
This blog has focused for the most part on what law schools do badly. This post has been about what they do supremely well, which is to replicate and reinforce class privilege, under the rubric of rewarding native intellectual ability and the capacity for hard work. And of course the skyrocketing cost of legal education has played a crucial role in intensifying these effects. When I started teaching at a good state law school in the early 1990s, tuition was $5000 per year in 2011 dollars. Now it's more than $30,000. Many of my best students from my early years of teaching -- people from relatively modest social backgrounds -- would never have gone to law school if it had cost what it costs now. What law school costs now ensures that a much higher percentage of students than ever before will either be children of the affluent, or people who have neither the necessary economic nor cultural capital available to them to figure out that borrowing $200,000 in non-dischargeable loans to go to law school is almost always a terrible idea. That too is a form of social sorting -- and we are beginning to see the consequences of it on a grand scale.
On his group blog yesterday Paul Campos investigated the ubiquity of denial, analogizing climate change denial to denial that law schools are pricing themselves out of existence.
First, you have your flat-out Deniers. These are people who simply deny there’s any crisis. . . . .The law school analogy is the professor (there is, I am reliably informed by one of his colleagues, at least one such law professor, who interestingly is middle-aged and doesn’t seem to be suffering from senile dementia) who denies that the cost of law school has risen relative to inflation.
The warmers are deniers of the second order
they’ll acknowledge the earth is warming, but they’ll claim this is a natural cyclical process, rather than a product of human activity. The law school analogy are faculty and administrators who acknowledge costs have gone up and the employment situation is bad at the moment, but who treat all this as a natural, cyclical, and most of all temporary situation,
The second category are
your Fatalists. The Fatalists acknowledge there’s a crisis, admit it’s to a significant extent human-caused and likely to get a lot worse, but argue that at this point there’s little or nothing we can do about it. . . . . .

The law school analogy are people who admit the employment situation is terrible, that it’s going to get worse, and that it’s been made worse by the collective behavior of law schools, but who argue that there’s not that much law schools can do to improve it
The third are the
Inconvenient Truthers. The ITs take the same basic view as the Fatalists, with the crucial difference that they believe that, with a combination of enough consciousness-raising and concerted political action, the collective action problems can be overcome, and many of the worst effects of human-caused climate change can be headed off, or at least ameliorated at an acceptable cost. The law school analogy consists of the people inside the system who believe that radical reform is both necessary and possible.
The fourth group consists of the Sleepers — the people who just aren’t paying much attention to this issue one way or another.
Occupy Wall Street. Wait, they have.



And fifthly, those who esteem legal incompetence a boon to mankind, like ineptitude in the expansion of regulatory bureaucracy, a form of inflation they think more fearsome than the present rate of thermal bracket creep.

Miguelito said...

Let's see:

Law schools boost their tuitions out of range of almost everybody.

World gets fewer lawyers.

There's something wrong with this? At my wife's graduation ceremony there were more lawyers than doctors, nurses, and other health professionals (like pharmacists and optometrists) combined.

Steve Bloom said...

Are law schools reducing admissions, Miguelito? Maybe, although somehow I doubt it. Rather, as the quotes appear to illustrate, the change is in the sort of people being admitted.

severn said...

You've missed out the ones who, like the fatalists, believe (about everything) that it's inevitable, but that it's the working of the market and therefore necessarily all for the best. Except where the government is somehow involved.

John said...

About 35-40 years ago, I heard a talk by Michael Harrington, author of the 1962 book, The Other America: Poverty in the U. S. Harrington noted the looming oversupply of lawyers, saying that "when you got into a taxicab, you could hear a learned discussion of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard" (from the philosophy graduates). Harrington predicted that "In the future, you'll be able to have a superb discussion of torts and contract law".

Steve Bloom said...

But lawyers create more jobs for their profession by making the law more complex via their complete control of judgeships and effective control of legislatures.

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