Gratitude for Intellectual Diversity

Red and blue Rock'em-Sock'em Robots facing offI believe intellectual diversity is vital to the development of the legal community—in law school and in practice. I also believe our individual mindsets—as lawyers, professors, or law students—aggregate and have an outsized effect on the direction of Wisconsin’s and America’s laws. Finally, in the vein of free-market competition, I believe we should each endeavor to challenge our mindsets and step out of any conscious or unconscious echo chambers of legal thought. With these ideas in mind, let’s spice things up with a rather normative post.

Let’s start with a somewhat lighthearted contention. Math is not evil, mysterious, or to be avoided at all costs. On the contrary, we should challenge ourselves to use it appropriately and effectively when an opportunity arises to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good “lawyers are bad at math” joke, but maybe we shouldn’t perpetuate that mindset. If you can use a standard normal distribution or some Bureau of Labor Statistics data to make a point, go for it. Words may be our specialty, but numbers should be in the tool bag as well.

That was a good warm up, so let’s try something a little more controversial. I believe our unalienable rights come from our Creator. Once upon a time, that belief was a fundamental premise of our constitutional republic. How, if at all, does the prevalence of this belief in the legal community affect American law? I contend that as this belief decreases in the legal community, incremental infringements upon our rights increase and become easier to stomach.

Next, we come to the somewhat reflexive mindset of law as the solution to every social or economic ill—the proverbial hammer for every task. There seems to be an overwhelming penchant in the legal community to attach taxes, regulations, licensing requirements, fees, and legislation to an unending list of Americans’ and Wisconsinites’ activities as free people (as an aside to this point, I do not believe a desire for legal complexity as a form of job security is laudable). These coercive powers of government should not be used lightly. A basic understanding of fundamental economic principles might help us understand why this insatiable rule-making predilection is potentially troublesome. Legislatures are not expert market manipulators, despite the assertions of lobbyists and special interest groups to the contrary. Also, as a former Illinois resident, I can tell you the results are not desirable. Law is not the solution to every social or economic problem.

We are privileged to be surrounded by students, professors, and lawyers with diverse beliefs. I invite each of you, regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, to the Federalist Society’s next event on March 6th in Room 246 at 12:10pm, where Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly will discuss agency deference and separation of powers in Wisconsin.

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