Honor Employers on Labor Day

Create your business

On Labor Day, we should praise employers as well as workers. In our economy employers make much of our labor possible by paying us wages. They make it more productive by arranging its structure most efficiently. They make it more forward looking by coming up with ideas for the next new product and service and by supplying the capital to get these ideas off the ground.

Yet many fail to acknowledge what a deeply moral act employing someone else in productive, legal work can be. By giving someone a job, an employer is not only providing a wage, but a framework of discipline and often a satisfying life that not everyone can provide for themselves. And large employers, like Walmart, do most of all by employing millions and creating paths for career advancement that would not otherwise exist.

In contrast, most of the shrill critics of companies like Walmart are academics and others who have never employed anyone except perhaps a nanny. They have done little to put bread on the table of their fellow man or set the less well off on a trajectory to a more ample livelihood.

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Appointing an Originalist Supreme Court Justice

In the Weekly Standard, libertarian law professors Josh Blackman and Randy Barnett offer five recommendations to a new Republican President on how to select Supreme Court nominees. Conservative blogger and activist Ed Whelan disagrees with many of these recommendations. I thought I would weigh in on each of them.

1. Bruising confirmation battles are worth the political capital for a lifetime appointment.

Whelan largely agrees with this, but he points out that only certain Presidents will be willing to incur those costs. That is certainly true. I would assume that both sides believe that it is important to elect a President who is committed to originalism and lawfulness, and therefore who would be willing to fight the good fight on this issue.

2. Paper trails are an asset, not a disqualification.

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In Support of Higher Education Reform

laptop library book

I am more sympathetic than Peter Lawler to the movement for reforming higher education, even though I share his delight in Greek and the philosophy of the ancients. I majored in classics, and spent part of my graduate studies at Oxford on the Patristics. I even still occasionally blog about Homer! But I believe that American higher education needs generally to become more variegated to take account of the varied endowments and needs of students. And higher education funded by the state should be a public good providing benefits to society as well as to its students.

I do not doubt that learning Greek and ancient philosophy is a valuable experience for most of the students who undertake it. I am doubtful, however, that a great many others would benefit from this challenge, because of the substantial opportunity cost in learning a difficult language like Greek: passing up other bodies of knowledge that have more direct payoffs in more vocations and provide better tools for understanding many aspects of the modern world.  To be sure, some future writers or thinkers may gain. Others who are quick studies can choose many vocations and methods of modern analysis without any particular preparation beyond their genius. But that does not describe most students, even those that would substantially benefit from a college education. I myself occasionally rue my single-minded pursuit of the typical nineteenth century education at the expense of courses with the economics and statistics needed to evaluate complex tradeoffs in public policy.

Similarly, many students will benefit from an old fashioned structure of education, even the kind of tutorial system that I enjoyed at Oxford. But the more labor intensive is education, the more expensive it is.

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The Fugitive Slave Clause, State Action, and Congressional Power

Here are two related thoughts about the Fugitive Slave Clause.

State Action: It is often said that the Constitution only imposes obligations on government officials.  While that may be generally true, it is not clear that it is entirely true.  One famous example is the 13th Amendment, which simply prohibits slavery, rather than prohibiting the federal government or the states from imposing slavery. (“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude . . . shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”)

It is often argued that the 13th thus prohibits private persons from participating in slave relations.  While this is certainly a plausible interpretation of the Amendment, I genuinely don’t know if it is correct.

The other day, however, I came upon a couple of other clauses that may not have government action requirements.  The Fugitive Slave Clause provides that “No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.” 

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Sooner or Later, A Sovereign People Asserts Its Authority

Declaration of Independence

Though American politics at the grassroots is polarized and divided, sharp commentators have written thoughtfully about the similarities between the parties as a practical matter. I would add that the similarities extend to their leaders.

While George W. Bush and Barack Obama could not be further apart ideologically, their attitudes toward governing suffer from the same flaw. Bush said he was “the Decider,” to which Obama rejoined: “I won.” Both ran roughshod over public opinion.

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America’s Class Divide: Scribes v. Producers

The most comprehensive study of the ideology in the legal profession ever has just been published. It confirms what most people have already intuited: lawyers as a whole lean strongly to the left. Within the profession, a few characteristics predict that a lawyer will be even farther left than the median. Females and government attorneys are even more liberal, and no category is farther to the left than law professors. So much for diversity in legal education.

But what is most interesting about the study was its comparison of the ideology of lawyers with that of other key professions. Academics as a whole are substantially more left-wing than lawyers, and journalists in the print media are even slightly more left-wing than academics. Thus, we now know that there is a shared ideology of what we might call the scribal class – those who seek to alter the world by their use of information and rhetoric.

This scribal class wields enormous political power.

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