Kill All The Lawyers

‘The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.’

Thus Dick the Butcher in Henry VI.  Meant as a bit of comic relief, I always smile too much at the line.  It’s funny, and, well a dark part of me half thinks it’s an excellent idea.  Kill all the lawyers.  What better way to a happier world, a world without an entire class of money-grubbing fiends getting in between us and our happiness?  It’s a line and a thought that can get stuck in your mind whenever you read the news.  Perhaps you too are following the recent outrages associated with MP’s expenses in the UK.  (Expense claims in detail.)

Probably everyone thought that the government had more than a fair share of autoerotic asphyxiating perverts in it, but maybe no one realized that they were almost all so disgraceful.  The upshot is something like all the lawyers getting whacked at once.  The worst are standing down now, and we are preparing to boot out the rest, swapping generations of MPs with people deliberately chosen for their moral fibre.  We are going to be run by a bunch of innocents.  I’m not sure what’s worse.

It’s easy to complain about politicians — particularly when they do things like claim for porn on their expense accounts.  But is there a sense in which we need self-interested, morally suspect creatures to look after us, particularly in a world populated by states run by equally nasty people?  Are we so bad, so ungovernable, that replacing these self-serving goofs with a gaggle of wide-eyed independents will turn out to be the wrong thing to do?

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27 Comments.

  1. I haven’t followed the details of the scandal to which you refer. However, political leaders who are too innocent fail: for example, Trotsky, Allende, Gorbachov. The ideal would be a political leader who understands the twists and turns of human nature, yet preserves his decency and virtue. A rare beast. Power corrupts, as the saying goes, if not in monetary terms, in terms of the sense of shared humanity: I can’t think of any political leaders I know who emerge from office as better human beings than when they began their term in power.

  2. michael reidy

    There’s no necessary connection between being a Worldly Wiseman and an effective politician. There are a few and they consistently get elected because people trust them. With PR they get cross party support so it’s recognised by even their political opponents. The next British election will be interesting to see how Cameron will do. He seems straight and not a fool.

  3. As for the money-grubbingness of MPs

  4. michael reidy

    Correction to above:
    There are a few honest representatives and they consistently get elected etc.

  5. The beauty of democracy is that it gives people the government they deserve. Right? 🙂

  6. Well, when political donations seem to so heavily dominate the debate in the U.S., who exactly deserves this government?

  7. I do kind of wonder, though, about the unlikley proposition that we are better off with self-interested leaders.

    People believe a corollary of this when thinking about capitalism — or anyway they used to believe something like this. Don’t people still sometimes say that greed works, that we have to have self-interested business leaders because their self-interest lines up most of the time with what’s necessary to make the company money? Can you think that we ought to have self-interested politicians, because their self-interest lines up most of the time with what’s necessary to govern?

  8. People believe a corollary of this when thinking about capitalism — or anyway they used to believe something like this.

    The cult of Ayn Rand is still very much alive and well in the US believe me.

  9. The cult of Ayn Rand has always puzzled me. In fact, I don’t think that she is known outside of the United States. The Latin American rightwing is paternalistic, authoritarian, often ultra-Catholic, at times populist, but at least feigns an interest in solving social problems. But the Ayn Rand cult of “me first, screw society” is a one of the few American cultural phenomena that has not been successfully exported to the rest of the humanity, unlike rock and roll, Hollywood movies, Facebook, MacDonalds, Starbucks, etc.

  10. I don’t know Amos. But when you have people as important as the former “maestro” Alan Greenspan worshiping at the altar of Rand it’s clear that her influence on American culture is substantial. We Americans really do love our rugged individualism and her philosophy, such as it is, plays to those inclinations. Humerously not even all libertarians are happy with her. I’ve seen some pretty good takedowns of her “arguments” from quarters that would otherwise seem to be on her side.

  11. The phrase ” we get the government we deserve” come to mind, so true as to be almost tiresome. does anybody seriously believe that as you ask government to do more, to assume more power, that only the benevolent will apply. Power, hold on to the implications and ramifications as much as your dreams of progress allow you to, but an engine that defies easy management, or control.

    Ayn Rand ? You should only be so lucky, Faust and Amos are you out there?

    Amos, try as you might and in your very best hallucinations you will not find “me first, screw society” in Rand’s positions. Perhaps, make that certainly, in your temper, but not in her writing. No?
    Try me !

    Faust,”Greenspan worshiping at the altar”, doubtless you mean as Fed Reserve Chairman, with an equal absence of doubt you have ignored his arbitrary policy of artificially low interest rates and his misuse of the Powers of said Federal reserve, the very thing Rand would be aghast at.

    You have received the fruit of the activist and progressive government you have craved, “social justice”, “equality”, universal this and that, reform, the whole panoply of altruistic, second hand morality and crap, and the more honest of you wonder what happened. The more dishonest and dishonorable acrobatically blame others. But of all people, Ayn Rand?

    You lived for this, you argued and fought for it. Is it asking to much for you to, with some minimal sense of shame, to at least admit the possibility of mistake. And to, as adults, take responsibility.

    See you all tomorrow.

  12. Johnt: What a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Since I live in Chile, I doubt that I received the fruits or green vegetables of the government you are talking about. My government, with a socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, wisely saved earnings from high copper prices during the boom years (the copper industry was nationalized under another socialist president, Salvador Allende) and thus, is using the savings to stimulate demand and fight unemployment during the current crisis. Since banks are strictly regulated in Chile, none have failed and we tax-payers have not had to bail out any of them. However, perhaps instead of making assumptions about what my responsibilities and those of Faust are, you can explain some of Ms. Rand’s positions to us, since I confess to never having read any of her works, although I have had the dubious pleasure of conversing with some of her disciples online. Since those disciples have may misrepresented Ms. Rand’s positions, I would be happy to hear your clarifications. By the way, Brian Leiter in his activist and progressive philosophy blog asked the question which persons, generally called “philosophers” in the media, don’t deserve the name of philosopher (lover of wisdom, as you know); and the winners were Jacques Derrida and Ayn Rand.

  13. Good article on the theory of efficient markets (for lay readers, like me).

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/06/business/06nocera.html?8dpc=&pagewanted=all

  14. Amos, rest assured the pleasure of acquaintance is all mine, however fleeting the sensation and however the prospect of disappointment looms.

    Glad to see things are going well in Chile though what that has to do with Bush or the world in general, or the socialist fraud currently defaming the White House with his presence eludes me. Please don’t take the time to explain.
    As you have taken the role of historian for Chile I am wondering how you managed to jump from Allende to whatshisname, right over who ever came in between. To painful or to complicated?
    Regardless; A couple of fast points on Chile-as-the World. The problem with American banks wasn’t a lack of statutory regulation, to the extent that there was an over riding problem it was the direction, the directives, the statutory enforcement of credit extension on behalf of, shall we say, the needy. Those who tug at your heart strings and who Ayn Rand would drown at birth. That’s how it works in your view and who am I to be rude?
    Yes and greed, of various types though not only that of overweight plutocrats of industry. This last will require thought as it includes the hero’s of government, good luck.

    To Ayn Rand and your plea for an online education. I admire your ability to recognize error in the absence of knowledge, your 3rd sentence, an uncanny talent. I must admit to a reluctance to do a tutorial though as I did not receive an answer, coherent or otherwise, on my challenge to you to justify or prove your “me first, screw society” fantasy. Turnabout is fair play and I’m sure your government can subsidize a purchase of some of Rand’s books on your behalf. Who will read them to you is another question.

    But to put things briefly; It is the joining of altruism and mysticism in the service and advancement of power that Rand faults. Mysticism, and this may shock you, is not only found in the regions of religious faith, but has increasingly moved it’s curse to the arena of politics. It is, you might say, the new, dominant faith of out time. How else to explain the uplifted hands, the crying mouths, the wondrous, raptured gaze directed at a cheap street hustling thug from the Chicago Machine? No offense intended.

    Altruism, perfectly understood within the family or as the voluntary actions of individuals, I’m sure you remember your Aristotle on the importance of the voluntary, has been twisted into the maws of government, wherein it supplies the fuel for permanence of office, vote bribery, and the sick notion that one is a better person the more government spends, the more it controls. This may have even affected you, though I pray it hasn’t.

    Since you answered my implied point re Rand in you response and so confirmed my lamentations on your misguided desires, you may cease to feign confusion as to my as always lucid expositions.

    Please feel free to respond, be assure I will feel free to read your response or not. I do so dislike wasting my time.

  15. Obama a cheap, street hustling thug? John, my friend, you only wish that you had the grades, test scores, punctuation and spelling (the word “too” and the word “to” should not be confused) to get into Harvard Law School.
    When you master English prose with the eloquence of Obama, please inform us.

  16. “To painful or to complicated?”-perhaps two ironic 😉

  17. Amos, thanks for the response, and about the depth that I expected.

    I assume you refer to the reading skills of Obama combined with that of his speech writers. Sadly I must soar or fall on my own efforts. Which from the look of things have kept you from any exercise either in wisdom or verbosity. A philosopher like yourself must realize that there is no contradiction between being a street hustling thug, which Obama certainly is and has the soul of, and attending Harvard.

    Also, it is the sign of the lost and defeated when they have to hang their pointed hats on spelling or typos, isolated as they may be, rather than substance. Thanks.

    But I couldn’t part without returning to your Brian Leiter bit.
    Are you for real? Am I supposed to be affected by what Leiter thinks of Rand, is this your idea of a point made ?
    Amos, by fate or providence you have fallen into a Randian category, the second- hander. This calls for direct quotation from the lady herself, did you ever think you would see the day?

    “You don’t think with another’s brain,—-“when you suspend your independent judgment, you suspend consciousness”, you get the idea.
    Brian Leiter ! Will I ever recover.
    Signing off.

  18. I almost forgot, Amos if you go over my post of yesterday again you will discover some spelling errors, or maybe typos not previously caught by your eagle and altruistic eye. Enjoy!

  19. This is all slightly hilarious, somewhat disconcerting. It’s strange to me that people operating under the moniker of “objectivist” would forget to include any semblance of actual evidence–while in the process accusing others of ignoring substance. In addition to this, they then claim some kind of independent intellect while demonstrating a pathological adherence to the words of their object of worship (not subject, that would cause a paradigm shift). Irony escapes the unreflective…

    Side note-is there some sort of internet Ayn Rand defense system that alerts committed followers to criticisms of the almighty. It really is very strange. The Leiter poll is very amusing by the way. Okay, my self-interest is waning, so I’m out before the scourge of altruism runs through my very being 😉

    actually, one more thing, but street hustling thug–is that because he’s from Chicago, a place with historic thuggery, or do you make that accusation because he’s an African-American. It just seems in my mind a little, nefariously so, racially tinged, but I don’t want to make that serious of an accusation without clarification.

  20. Blogs are proof that there’s a lot more to the association of ideas than Hume or anyone else might have thought.

  21. Gee, Amos he certainly told you! Incidentally, I always enjoy reading your posts because your perspective is quite idiosyncratic and never fails to add a new dimension I probably wouldn’t have thought of, and I enjoy your dry sense of wit too. I hope that doesn’t sound sycophantic, I just wanted to express my appreciation.

  22. Thank you very much, Rose.

  23. James,

    Could we get a post/thread about the association of ideas

  24. philosophical poetry blog

  25. But that would be against the law, and the state will prosecute, and there will be no lawyers to defend.

  26. Without oversight, there is the potential for any politician to fall into the immoral side, no matter how virtuous they claim to be prior to going into office.

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