Too Many Lawyers, Again

Recently, on Fox Business Channel, hostess Alexis Glick asked an exchange trader for his views of recent actions directed at the US economy by the central government. In response he invoked the old cliche about there being too many lawyers in society. In summary, the disgruntled trader said that too many lawyers, without any training in or knowledge of economics, were making legislation and policy initiatives affecting the economy. He added that as far as he was concerned, this was the greatest problem in America today. I sympathize with this trader and agree with him as far as his statement goes, but the problem to which he only alluded runs deeper. The fundamental problem is that professional politicians are meddling in the economy at all.

Economics, in the most basic sense, is a discipline that seeks to explain the creation of wealth. The most successful inquiries in the field, as well as the evidence of history have shown that societies in which certain conditions exist allow for the greatest possibility of wealth creation. Those conditions include: legally protected property rights, sound money, open markets, minimal government intervention, objective legal system and limited barriers to international trade and migration. The cynics among you will note that this list represents almost everything the US central government is actively working against today. In essence, the sanctity and protection of the rights of the individual are what each of the conditions acknowledge. The prevailing trend in the world today is the primacy of the collective over the individual, the most glaring example of which is the increasing role that the State plays in the lives and deaths of everyone.

Politics, in the most basic sense, describes the relationship among men in terms of establishing proper social systems and defining the exact role of a proper government. “Governments are instituted among men,” said the revolutionary Founders of the United States, “to secure these (individual) rights”. Not to grant rights, privileges or bailouts which must be financed by violating the rights of others. Not to take property from some and give it to others. Not to inflate the currency. Not to restrict trade or regulate markets. Not to empathize with some individual’s group affiliations in deciding justice. Not to make arbitrary decrees about what constitutes “competition” or “full employment”. And certainly not to restrict in any way the free movement of people and property. In short, proper governments are responsible for providing a framework within which all members of the society may interact with each other secure in the knowledge that the institution of government will reasonably protect them from murder, theft, fraud or foreign invasion. And if the few villains in the society breach the rights of others, that institution will guarantee that individual justice is served. Finally, both the members of that society and the institution of government it creates, must accept that reality is characterized by risk and that no institution can legislate it away.

Sadly, our trader friend was somewhat correct. There are too many lawyers, too many of a certain kind, who aspire to wield the power that accompanies the mantle of a position with the intrusive State. The early framers of the US recognized the potential for abuse of power and made valiant efforts to create a limited government. But the lust for power and privilege possessed by too many villains–not all of whom are lawyers but also businessmen, bankers, environmentalists, trade union leaders, real estate developers, welfare mavens, community organizers and so on–has rotted the society to the point where such pursuits are considered normal. Such normality, in the broader historical context, represents the political rot of old Europe and the history of oppression that has permeated mankind for thousands of years. It is also a repudiation of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States. As the US prepares to observe 233 years of existence as the first constituted nation in history to try and change the trend of tyranny, its citizens would do well to remember the contributions of individual men, for good or evil, within the institutions of government among them. And, to govern themselves accordingly.

Copyright 2009 Edward Podritske

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