Daiblog A Fair and Balanced daily discussion of Democratic politics, ideas, strategy, and news
Thursday, September 25, 2003
More on how much money lawyers make
Prof. Cowen has responded to my post yesterday regarding the respective hauls of trial lawyers and the Amlaw 100. To his credit, he says both numbers are stunning.
Putting aside my arithmetic mistakes (as pointed out by Joe in comments)- the most important thing is that the order of magnitude of the two numbers is the same- here's my next question: Why?
Why are these numbers stunning?
There are several possibilities:
1. The numbers are stunning because they are so large. This is Prof. Cowen's point, I suppose, when he compares them to the revenues of Coca-Cola. Largeness, however, is a matter of reference. Compared to the United States' 2002 GDP of $10.4 trillion , the numbers are small. If this is Prof. Cowen's objection, then I'm not sure what his point is.
2. The numbers are stunning because they are disproportionate to the amount of legal work which should have been performed. This is possible, but how do you prove it? What makes a lawsuit frivolous? What makes a lawsuit legitimate? How can one show that the combined +/- $80 billion was money not well spent? If this is Prof. Cowen's point, I would like to see it fleshed out empirically, not anecdotally. How much litigation is enough? I will have to take a closer look at the website he linked to, and see what the report says.
3. The numbers are stunning because lawyers make too much money. Regardless of what I think, I'm betting Prof. Cowen would say that the market should set salaries, with very few, if any, restrictions.
On the point that the Awlaw 100 does transactional work as well as litigation whereas trial lawyers only do litigation, I'm not sure that makes the two numbers incomperable, an apple and an orange, if you will. Aren't both types of legal services costs of doing business? I guess the comparision breaks down if the underlying point is that there is just too much litigation in the country, but if that is the point, then I'd like to go beyond the Amlaw 100 and find the sum spent on all corporate litigation.
posted by Adam
I am currently reading Timothy Crouse's "The Boys on the Bus," which is about the reporters assigned to the various candidates for President in the 1972 election. Karl Rove assigned chapters of this book to his class at the University of Texas, and now I see why:
Richard Nixon learned a lot about the press from the 1968 campaign, far more than the press learned about him. He learned that the press was still on the defensive because of '60 and '62. He found out how to undermine reporters in subtle ways. He discovered that he could be an effective performer on TV, and that he could use television to get around the press. The main lesson he took from the campaign was that he could isolate himself from the press with no dire consequences to his political well-being; he could refuse to come to terms with the major issue of the day [the Vietnam War] for nine straight months without risking a mutiny from the press. As President, he lived by this lesson. (p. 189).
So spoke Ronald Reagan, and so goes much of the modern Republican Party. The Republicans have been able to get remarkable political mileage out of railing against big government, Washington, government waste, etc. Reagan's formulation was (not surprisingly) the most succinct and catchy way to encapsulate their message.
On the domestic side, the "government is our problem" message translates simply into tax cuts and reductions in discretionary spending. (We'll leave aside the increases in defense spending and accompanying deficits for now. We'll also leave aside George W. Bush's take on Reagan's message, which appears to be "Government is our problem, so let's have more of it for my base and voters in swing states.") Considering only the ideology of "Government is our problem," here's my question:
What are we doing in Iraq?
And here's my answer:
Building a government. Or at least trying to. Or at least we should be trying to.
So here's my next question:
Shouldn't the Democrats be much better at it than the Republicans?
The modern Republican Party, conceived by Goldwater and nutured by Reagan and Gingrich, has no interest in building governments. In their minds' eyes, "government is our problem." It gets in the way. It impeads progress, growth, religious observation, etc. They have been trying to reduce the size of government for forty years (at least). They want to make it, as has been said before, "small enough to fit in your bedroom." Many Republicans have no interest in the whys and wherefores of building (relatively) efficient public insitutions. Or in efficient public management. Or in having government do anything well, except armed defense. Now, I'm not talking about all Republicans or even maybe a majority of the people who voted for Bush. I'm talking about the party faithful, the ideologues, the people who run the GOP. For it is these people whose ideas influence the GOP and the GOP spin machine. Also, it makes more political sense for the Democrats to go after the hardliners than after, you know, reasonable people.
With the ideological foundation described above (and I'd welcome debate as to its accuracy), how can the GOP conceptually direct the building of an Iraqi government? Shouldn't such an effort be at odds with their underlying philosophy? Shouldn't the cognative dissonance be overwhelming? Maybe it is, and maybe that's why Bush's post-war plan has been non-existent. Can the GOP even conceive of building a government? One that works? One of the most fundamental things about governments is that they collect taxes from their citizens. It may be considered the most fundamental thing a government does. Not the most fair, necessarily, but the most fundamental. Otherwise, how does a government function? Even conservatives should concede this premise, because it is the foundation of their attacks on government per se: that it exists only to collect taxes. So, isn't the postwar effort in Iraq going to necessitate raising taxes on the Iraqi people? Clearly, I wouldn't put it that way, but the GOP might. And maybe that's why the GOP isn't fit to rebuild Iraq. They don't build governments. They only knock them down.
Can't the Democrats take political advantage of this? Can't they say that the Dems are better positioned to rebuild Iraq because we are in the business of building governments? The tax issue could cut both ways, but I think the security concerns may win out. This is a way for the Dems to get serious on Iraq, to propose a plan, and to watch the GOP hardliners try to explain the difference between government here and government there. If government is our problem, then why are we trying to establish a problem in Iraq?
Side note:Intervening in Liberia may well be the right thing to do, but I suspect it would be a politically unpopular move for the Bush administration, perhaps opening up some room for the Democrats to work with on the foreign policy front.
posted by Amanda
In other news, the word on the street (or at least in the Washington Post) is that Dean probably isn't cute & cuddly enough with the press to make a serious run against W. Leaving aside the question of how someone could be less well suited to intensive press scrutiny/more inclined to annoy the media than W, it seems like a serious problem for Dean; if you're going to run as the outsider, you need the press to love you--and even then it doesn't mean you're going to win (see McCain, John).
This woman is totally nuts. NUTS! I saw her on Hardball last night and she infuriated me to the point I couldn't watch it anymore. Unfortunately, the talk show hosts are generally pretty kind to her and give her something of a pass on her craziness. Kudos to Cohen for finally calling her out.
posted by Joshua