I read a post yesterday at Overlawyered.com on Walter Olson’s new book, “Schools for Misrule,” on why lawyers are not fit to run the country.  One charming fellow made the inevitable Shakespeare reference (the “kill all the lawyers” one from Henry VI, a play most ultra-conservatives I know haven’t read, because if they had they’d know the line’s spoken by an ANARCHIST).  Ahem.   Anyway, the whole thing pisses me off, not least because Olson’s made a fortune on torts, which is exactly what he criticizes lawyers for, but also because I think brain trust “fellows” should avoid redesigning a system with which they have precious little personal experience.  But if Olson’s your cup of tea and you went to the right prep school, the “Cato Club” has a “retreat” coming up in September.  Knock yourself out.  

Personally I believe that organizations like the Cato Institute thrive on vanity.  You crank enough stuff out and people buy your books and come to your speeches.  You make money.  Eventually you need to make more money, but you’ve already said X.  No one will pay you to say X again.  So you say something more outrageous.  And so it goes.  Olson made his name with a 1992 book called “The Litigation Explosion.”  That one was mostly about greedy plaintiffs’ lawyers and included a healthy dose of Clinton-hatred.  Fine.  In 2004, with “The Rule of Lawyers,” he took on class action litigation.  By 2007 and “The Excuse Factory,” Olson was arguing against the evils of civil rights legislation and supporting himself with anecdotes meant to inflame, rather than inform.  Now he’s made his way, really, to lawyers in general.  We’re all bad, and the country would be a much better place without us.  (Alexander Hamilton did okay, I thought.  Perhaps Olson should cancel his speaking engagements for the Federalist Society?)  The circle of blame keeps getting bigger and bigger, though never apparently encompassing the likes of Ted Olson or Alberto Gonzales.  And without all these lawyers, Olson must believe, it will be that much easier to close the doors to people who didn’t go to the right prep school, and don’t socialize with the Bushes – or the Koch brothers –  and do what the ultra conservatives really want.  Make lots and lots and lots of money.  Be elite.   

Take it away, poor Irish Catholic boy:

 
I could not find any sixpenny entrance and, fearing that the bazaar would be closed, I passed in quickly through a turnstile, handing a shilling to a weary-looking man. I found myself in a big hall girded at half its height by a gallery. Nearly all the stalls were closed and the greater part of the hall was in darkness. I recognized a silence like that which pervades a church after a service. I walked into the centre of the bazaar timidly. A few people were gathered about the stalls which were still open. Before a curtain, over which the words Café Chantant were written in coloured lamps, two men were counting money on a salver. I listened to the fall of the coins.Remembering with difficulty why I had come, I went over to one of the stalls and examined porcelain vases and flowered tea-sets. At the door of the stall a young lady was talking and laughing with two young gentlemen. I remarked their English accents and listened vaguely to their conversation.

`O, I never said such a thing!’`O, but you did!’

`O, but I didn’t!’

`Didn’t she say that?’

`Yes. I heard her.’

`O, there’s a… fib!’

Observing me, the young lady came over and asked me did I wish to buy anything. The tone of her voice was not encouraging; she seemed to have spoken to me out of a sense of duty. I looked humbly at the great jars that stood like eastern guards at either side of the dark entrance to the stall and murmured:

`No, thank you.’

The young lady changed the position of one of the vases and went back to the two young men. They began to talk of the same subject. Once or twice the young lady glanced at me over her shoulder.

I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make my interest in her wares seem the more real. Then I turned away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed the two pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket. I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The upper part of the hall was now completely dark.

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.

James Joyce, Araby, from Dubliners (Penguin 1996)