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Some of My Best Friends Are Law Professors,

but I can't say that law professors' fleeing the country for Canada makes me worry about the future of America. Now if it were physicists or medical researchers or engineers (a nontrivial risk, incidentally, if we burden noncitizens in the wrong ways), then I'd be worried.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Some of My Best Friends Are Law Professors,
  2. An Unintentionally Funny Article by Former Duke Law Professor Michael Byers
Ilya Somin:
Actually, I hope that as many law professors flee to Canada as possible. That will increase the market demand for those of us who remain!
4.27.2006 12:40am
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
India is full of high quality physicists, medical researchers, and engineers... we're covered:)
4.27.2006 12:42am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
"
Now if it were physicists or medical researchers or engineers (a nontrivial risk, incidentally, if we burden noncitizens in the wrong ways), then I'd be worried.
"
It would also be nice if made it easier for physicists, and medical researchers, and engineers to get into the country, w/o making them jump through the kind of legal hoops that would give our illegal Mexican immigrants nightmares.
4.27.2006 12:47am
Steve:
Off topic, but since the subject of the MSU professor controversy has moved down the page, I wanted to note this fairminded column from the Detroit Free Press, which concludes:

The notion that religious beliefs should be exempt from rational scrutiny or criticism has no place in a free society, much less on a campus devoted to free inquiry.

Wichman may be an oaf, and his spelling may be as deplorable as his lack of civility. But his point about defending free speech in the face of religious dogma is legitimate -- and I will defen to the deth his rite to raze it.
4.27.2006 1:43am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
What I think they forget is that it takes a J.D. degree to teach law, and there are probably a couple of million of those in the U.S. right now. There are a lot of disgruntled lawyers who would love to get a cush job in academia writing papers on irrelevant topics and teaching a class here and there. So, I have no doubt that any of those law profs who give up their jobs will have them replaced in no time.

To all the law profs reading this, my intent here was not to denigrate the job you do, because there are a lot of law profs who do work hard, including, in particular, the Conspirators. But there are plenty of your brethern who, upon getting tenured, don't. My point is that there are a lot of lawyers who, upon finding out what the practice of law really is like, would love to get into legal academia.
4.27.2006 6:20am
Doc:
This medical researcher is leaving but for Australia (where my partner is from) as a 'distinguished talent'.

Mostly an issue of practicality (to be with my partner who couldn't easily get a visa to stay in the US) and partly politics (though OZ in many ways has the worst of the US). One of my fraternity brothers (a polymer chemist) also left the US to live in Canada over his native Boston. So a few of us really are going for mulitple reasons.
4.27.2006 7:27am
Hoosier:


Bye.
4.27.2006 9:52am
Freder Frederson (mail):
With the current assault on science by the Religious Right wing of Republican party and the administration and the Libertarian wing's belief that government spending on science and technology is wasted (in spite of all the evidence of the twentieth century, where every major technological advance was the result of government support, to the contrary), is it any wonder that homegrown scientists and engineers are becoming rarer and our lead in technology is slipping.
4.27.2006 10:10am
DK:
There's no if about it -- we DO burden noncitizens in the wrong ways. We restrict engineers to stick with one company for up to 6 years via the H1B visa, and we generally don't treat them as well as an amnesty would treat illegal unskilled workers.
4.27.2006 10:12am
Freder Frederson (mail):
We restrict engineers to stick with one company for up to 6 years via the H1B visa, and we generally don't treat them as well as an amnesty would treat illegal unskilled workers.

Instead of using the cheap and easy out of H1B visas (which I know from personal experience were abused in the mid-nineties to suppress the wages of computer programmers) we should be focussing on the hard work of training more of our own students in science, math and engineering. This country would be a much better place if more people were getting degrees in science, math and engineering and less in business, law and marketing.
4.27.2006 10:20am
Abdul (mail):

With the current assault on science by the Religious Right wing of Republican party


Just the other day my Bible study group went out and stomped an electron microscope.
4.27.2006 10:35am
byomtov (mail):
It would also be nice if made it easier for physicists, and medical researchers, and engineers to get into the country, w/o making them jump through the kind of legal hoops that would give our illegal Mexican immigrants nightmares.

On a related exampe of immigration law stupidity see this
4.27.2006 10:52am
Freder Frederson (mail):
Just the other day my Bible study group went out and stomped an electron microscope.

When we are still arguing in this country whether or not evolution should be taught in our schools, the religious right is assaulting science (and people are so woefully ignorant that they discount evolution and don't know the difference between a scientific theory and the lay meaning of "theory"). That particular discussion should have been over in the 1920's.
4.27.2006 10:53am
great unknown (mail):
Freder Frederson:
On what basis do you say that our lead in technology is slipping? So far, I haven't seen any evidence of that.
There were the amazing ostensible advances in stem-cell research in Korea, but we all know how that resolved itself.
As long as the influx of scientists and technicians into this country (and the waiting line of those seeking admittance) far exceeds the eflux, I must assume that the research and development environment in this country is far superior to that in any other.
It should be. The American citizen is paying an enormous premium in medical, pharamceutical, and tuition costs to subsidize research for the entire world.
4.27.2006 11:03am
Houston Lawyer:
The left has its own issues with science. They are rabidly opposed to animal research, genetically modified foods, the use of DDT to fight malaria, and numerous other things materially beneficial to living breathing human beings. As a result, millions are needlessly denied valuable medicines, starving to death, dying of malaria, etc.

This pales in comparison to any conceivable harm failure to teach evolution might cause.
4.27.2006 11:05am
Anon Person (mail):
Freder,

We actually favor domestic students over international students for financial aid in my CS department, and we still can't find them. Frankly, I don't think comments made by people like Bush about PhDs help the matter any. And yes, I'm bashing bush, but no, I'm not bashing conservatives in general. There are many extremely smart and intellectual conservatives who respect "book-learning".

The US has reached the point it has partly because for a 100 years it has been the favored destination of the world's most motivated and talented. When it stops being that favored destination, then we need to start worrying.
4.27.2006 11:07am
Abdul:
Freder,

Assault? That implies there's still a fight. Only 1/2 of US adults believe in a heliocentric solar system. In England, which is far less religious, 2/3 of the adults buy into a Ptolemaic universe.

According to polls, both the religous right AND the secular left beleive in teaching evolution and creationism in schools.

It's not the religious right that's doing the assaulting. It's ignorance. And ignorance is winning because it outnumber knowledge.

I, for one, welcome our new know-nothing overlords.
4.27.2006 11:15am
pmorem (mail):
Now, now, Houston Lawyer, Leftists don't kill people, they liberate them from the chains of life. Rachel Carson is a great hero, having liberated nearly as many people as Papa Joe!

Back on topic...
Unfortunately, there are so many lawyers in the US, and our population is so much larger than Canada that there would be a serious glut in Canada before it impacted the US lawyer population.

Maybe we can raise money to send Byers to China.
4.27.2006 11:16am
bt (mail):
To add a little to what F. Frederson said above regarding areas of dubious graduate study would include social work, journalism, communications, etc,. Let's face it, getting a hard science degree (biology, physics, etc)is much tougher than an MSW.
4.27.2006 11:17am
elliottg (mail):
I know heads of several labs at major research university and they are having trouble with visas. Top talent is choosing not to come to the US in the first place due to the hassles.
4.27.2006 11:21am
Freder Frederson (mail):
The left has its own issues with science. They are rabidly opposed to animal research, genetically modified foods, the use of DDT to fight malaria, and numerous other things materially beneficial to living breathing human beings. As a result, millions are needlessly denied valuable medicines, starving to death, dying of malaria, etc.

If by the "left", you mean powerful interests in the Democratic establishment who have the ear of significant powerbrokers in Washington and members of Congress and in state legislatures and represent a significant voting bloc, that is complete and utter bullshit.

As for the DDT canard. The only advantage that DDT holds over any other pesticide in fighting Malaria bearing mosquitoes is its persistance. If we (the west, developed nations or however you want to phrase it) were so damned concerned about fighting malaria we could find the money to spray more often with pesticides that are not bioaccumalitive or invest in drug research to develop more effective anti-malarial drugs. So don't cry about how all the "envirowhackos" are killing people by objecting to the use of DDT.

On what basis do you say that our lead in technology is slipping? So far, I haven't seen any evidence of that.

We are starving basic research, especially at the federal level, we are underinvesting in our technology infrastructure. By outsourcing our IT departments in industry, we are beginning to discourage undergraduates to enter technology fields.

We actually favor domestic students over international students for financial aid in my CS department, and we still can't find them.

True, we need to reemphasize math and science education at the primary and secondary levels. But when you have state and local school boards ridiculing evolution and NCLB by default excluding science education from the curriculum, we are going in the wrong direction.
4.27.2006 11:28am
Steve:
In an age when the FDA consults with religious-right groups before deciding whether to approve Plan B contraception, you'll forgive me if I have doubts that PETA exercises much control over our national research agenda.
4.27.2006 11:30am
RBG (mail):
Houston Lawyer's point is one that needs drilling into the heads of those who casually bemoan the influence of the religious right on science: evolution and human cloning and stem-cell research are the two areas where the supposedly baneful effects of the religious right are felt; at the same time, the religious right generally overlaps with that group of Americans that is nothing if not overly enthusiastic and optimistic about the ability of science and technology to improve our lives.

How disdain for evolution translates into a dearth of engineers is beyond me. In fact, if I recall correctly, the fundamentalist church of my childhood had a disporportionate share of engineers and doctors; I'm not sure if I've met as many in all the more progressive churches of my adult years: useless humanities majors, like myself, are much more prevalent.

Meanwhile, as Houston Lawyer points out, from noteworthy left-wing academics calling (for decades now) for a post-modern rejection of the scientific method as an objective, uniquely valid way of knowing, to almost exclusively left-wing activists protesting the use of cloning and other genetic technologies on anything that isn'thuman to left-wing activists bombing and otherwise sabatoging animal research labs to the quite serious proposals for certain types of research and/or technology to be limited by (that article of faith) the precautionary principle, the most serious and most pernicious ideological and political assaults on science arguably come from folks on the left.

In fact, a fascinating intellectual history could be written exploring whether and, if so, how the sophisticated science-despisers occupying endowed chairs in some of our most prestigious universities contributed to the resurgence of creationism and/or intelligent design in the late 20th century through their relativization of knowledge and subjectivization of the scientific method. The epilogue, of course, would explore the pathology of those, like Feder, who obsess over the yammerings of religious yokels in Pennsylvania about creationism but somehow overlook the potentially greater threat to the scientific enterprise posed by their ideological comrades.
4.27.2006 11:40am
RBG (mail):

In an age when the FDA consults with religious-right groups before deciding whether to approve Plan B contraception, you'll forgive me if I have doubts that PETA exercises much control over our national research agenda.



No doubt that's one of the downsides of having the Republicans in power. Does that mean you'll be equally vigilant when the Democrats are ascendant again and assaults on science take the form of attempted restrictions on GMO farm crops and scientifically unjustified logging policies in the West, and so on?
4.27.2006 11:46am
Freder Frederson (mail):
How disdain for evolution translates into a dearth of engineers is beyond me.

Engineering (and medicine for that matter) is an applied science. Disdain of science leads to disdain of applied sciences.

The epilogue, of course, would explore the pathology of those, like Feder, who obsess over the yammerings of religious yokels in Pennsylvania about creationism but somehow overlook the potentially greater threat to the scientific enterprise posed by their ideological comrades.

It is nice that you lump me in with the Earth Firsters and more radical members of PETA. Shall I associate you with the abortion clinic bombers and doctor murderers since they must be your "ideological comrades"?

In fact, a fascinating intellectual history could be written exploring whether and, if so, how the sophisticated science-despisers occupying endowed chairs in some of our most prestigious universities contributed to the resurgence of creationism and/or intelligent design in the late 20th century through their relativization of knowledge and subjectivization of the scientific method.

I'd really be interested if you would attach some names to the sweeping generalization you are making here. The only ones I can think of would be some of the economics and law professors at the University of Chicago.
4.27.2006 11:51am
Freder Frederson (mail):
scientifically unjustified logging policies in the West

Hey, I'd be happy if we had economically justified logging (grazing and mining) policies in the west. Ones where the government (that is the actual owners of the land and the timber) actually got their fair share of the proceeds.
4.27.2006 11:54am
Steve:
Does that mean you'll be equally vigilant when the Democrats are ascendant again and assaults on science take the form of attempted restrictions on GMO farm crops and scientifically unjustified logging policies in the West, and so on?

Yeah, I don't have much patience for junk science, actually. I think we need to understand that there are actual base-level fears with respect to GMO crops, I can't really object to labelling provisions, but at the end of the day I think it's our job to educate people about the safety of these products and support the GMO concept in a responsible manner, rather than simply pander to people's fears for political gain.
4.27.2006 11:58am
JosephSlater (mail):
Go Freder! Doubters of his point might want to check out Chris Mooney's _The Republican War on Science_. Summary: "On a broad array of issues—stem cell research, climate change, abstinence education, mercury pollution, and many others—the Bush administration's positions fly in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus."
4.27.2006 12:07pm
RBG (mail):
Engineering (and medicine for that matter) is an applied science. Disdain of science leads to disdain of applied sciences.

One would think that a statement like this would require some empirical support. Care to provide any? Or are we unscientifically stranded in the world of assertion?

As for the question regarding my "sweeping generalization," I don't have a bibliography handy, but you may wish to start with two texts that were part of my graduate education in intellectual history: The Order of Things, by Michel Foucault, and Knowledge and Social Imagery, by David Bloor (University of Edinburgh); Kuhn's work on paradigms in science is an early, attenuated version of the same relativizing approach. One might also look at the recent treatment of Larry Summers by the esteemed faculty of Harvard, who apparently are largely incapable of conceiving of scientific inquiry unburdened by ideological baggage.
4.27.2006 12:07pm
RBG (mail):
Hey, I'd be happy if we had economically justified logging (grazing and mining) policies in the west. Ones where the government (that is the actual owners of the land and the timber) actually got their fair share of the proceeds.

I can, on this point at least, enthusiastically agree with Freder.
4.27.2006 12:09pm
jack brennen (mail):
I am a masters, going on phd in physics and let me say that I don't agree with and tend to dislike post-modernism, creationism or whatever it's calling itself, relativism, theism, spiritualism (is that a word?), and almost all canidates of all politcal parties. I like genetically modified foods, cloning, the separation of church and state, nuclear power, and research funding. I don't know how many of my classmates would agree, but in any case most of them can't vote since they are from Eastern Europe or Asia. Whenever I talk about politics I disagree with people, whether "lefties" or "righties," although that may simply be due to my contrary personality. Above all though, I agree with some of the commenters above that the biggest hinderence to scientific progress in this country is not the left or right with their pet screwy ideas, but the overwhemling ignorance about math and science and even worse the pride in that ignorance.
4.27.2006 12:09pm
jack brennen (mail):
Oh and Freder, sadly everything about the post-modernists is true. Read "Higher Superstition" by Levitt and Gross or any of the work of Alan Sokal. This is a big problem. Science has to fight a war of survival on both sides since the enlightenment isn't very popular politically right now.
4.27.2006 12:16pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
by David Bloor (University of Edinburgh)

You might want to bone up on your Geography.
4.27.2006 12:16pm
Patent Law Student:
"This country would be a much better place if more people were getting degrees in science, math and engineering and less in business, law and marketing."

It is all about supply and demand. You say that the USA would be better off if there were more engineers, etc. as opposed to lawyers, etc., but if that was so, why doesn't the market reflect that. I might not have gone to law school if I could have found a better job with my engineering undergrad degree.
4.27.2006 12:17pm
pedro (mail):
I'm not sure the statistics are out there to back me up, but I do suspect a significant number of scientists have fled the country in the last few years. The center gravity in my narrow area of research has shifted to France and Britain, with three or four of the leading figures changing address recently. It is also the case that less international graduate students are enlisting in my Department, and that some very promising postdocs have preferred to go back home rather than to pursue positions in the US. It may be that my narrow field may accidentally attract a lot of leftists (or at least cosmopolitanists), but the fact remains that things have changed dramatically--in my field--in the last few years. I suppose this is not the case all over the board.
4.27.2006 12:22pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
It is all about supply and demand. You say that the USA would be better off if there were more engineers, etc. as opposed to lawyers, etc., but if that was so, why doesn't the market reflect that.

Just because there is a market demand for something, that doesn't mean that thing is objectively good. Everybody loves potato chips. They are an undeniably tasty, crunchy, delicious snack and there is a huge demand for them. Yet, I doubt that even the marketing manager of Frito Lay would go on record saying they are good for you. He would probably weasel out and say they can be "part of a healthy, balanced diet"
4.27.2006 12:28pm
Rational Actor (mail):
Why is everyone so down on ignorance? Ignorance is Strength.

RGB - what do you want empirical support for? (i) The notion that engineering and medicine are applied sciences, (ii) the assertion that there is disdain for science in general, or (iii) having accepted that engineering and medicine are a subset of "science" known as "applied science," disdain of broader "science" leads to or implies disdain of "applied science?"
I don't want to go down the path of finding your empirical evidence only to be told that it was empirical evidence of something you were not looking for.
4.27.2006 12:31pm
frankcross (mail):
I wouldn't worry too much about US scientific standing. In the 2004 Global Competitiveness Report, the US ranks #1 on brain drain (meaning that educated people are less likely to leave than any other country). Our technology rating was #2, our quality of scientific research institutions was #1, private spending on R&D was #1, government support for R&D was #12, etc.

I wouldn't be entirely sanguine. I think our comparative advantage is built considerably upon immigrants who come for education and bring scientific skills and this became more difficult in the response to 9/11
4.27.2006 12:32pm
Avatar (mail):
I hate to say it, but if your beliefs on evolution versus creationism rely on your high school instruction, it's probably BETTER if you stay away from hard science as a career.
4.27.2006 12:50pm
Inspector Callahan (mail):

Just the other day my Bible study group went out and stomped an electron microscope.


Screamingly funny! I just about spewed my monitor.

Good one, Abdul.

TV (Harry)
4.27.2006 12:51pm
Simon Spero (mail):
As an Englishman living in Durham I cannot begin to count the number of times I've been harassed and abused just walking down 9th Street.
4.27.2006 12:53pm
RBG (mail):
by David Bloor (University of Edinburgh)

You might want to bone up on your Geography.


As a flat-earther, I can hardly be expected to genuflect before your idol of geographical accuracy, now can I. :-)
4.27.2006 12:58pm
Irensaga (mail):
For every law professor who leaves academia, there are about a hundred qualified applicants ready to take her place.

"There's no indispensable man."
4.27.2006 1:11pm
RBG (mail):
Rational Actor:

The phrasing of your question suggests my initial objection was ill-formed. What I meant to say was that Feder's argument was fundamentally one about causation: it's one thing to argue that A logically follows from B; it's another thing to show that A actually does follow from B. Thus, even if Feder is correct in arguing that disdain for science (which assumes too much--disdain for a subset of science--evolution--is more accurate) implies a disdain for the applied sciences, it's another matter entirely to show that the causal relationship actually exists. There may be a number of reasons for this (including a mistaken mental framework that views evolution as separate from science more generally, and thus limits its disdain for the former from spreading to the latter), but we see this type of inconsistency in thought everywhere. All I'm asking is that the actual causal relationship be demonstrated.
4.27.2006 1:12pm
Jason Fliegel (mail):
From pmorem

Leftists don't kill people, they liberate them from the chains of life. Rachel Carson is a great hero, having liberated nearly as many people as Papa Joe!


This old chestnut comes up from time to time. "Silent Spring has killed more people than Mein Kampf/Mao's Little Red Book/Das Kapital," the opponents of the environmental movement shout at us. This time, we get a slight twist -- it's an attack on Carson instead of her book, and she's "only" credited with killing "nearly as many" people as Stalin, not more. Regardless of the presicse form it takes, though, it's a great slogan. After all, what reasonable person could be opposed to stamping out malaria? The problem is, it's just not true.

Here's what Rachel Carson wrote in Silent Spring:

Although insect resistance is a matter of concern in agriculture and forestry, it is in the field of public health that the most serious apprehensions have been felt. The relation between various insects and many diseases of man is an ancient one Mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles may inject into the human bloodstream the single-celled organism of malaria. …

These are important problems and must be met. No responsible person contends that insect-borne disease should be ignored. The question that has now urgently presented itself is whether it is either wise or responsible to attack the problem by methods that are rapidly making it worse. The world has heard much of the triumphant war against disease through the control of insect vectors of infection, but it has heard little of the other side of the story - the defeats, the short-lived triumphs that now strongly support the alarming view that the insect enemy has been made actually stronger by our efforts. Even worse, we may have destroyed our very means of fighting.


(emphasis added)

Carson wasn't arguing against DDT as an antimalarial. She was arguing against it as an agricultural pesticide. Moreover, one of the arguments she used (admitedly, not her primary argument) was that by using DDT as an agricultural pesiticide, we encourage the development of DDT-resistant insects, thereby reducing the efficacy of DDT as an antimalarial.

The fact is, as best I am aware, DDT has never been banned in antimalarial applications -- only in agricultural applications.

More generally, pmorem's statement is an example of the disdain for science decried in this thread. I would characterize it more broadly -- a disdain for the facts, from partisans on both sides. The partisan right decides it doesn't like the environmental movement, and suddenly Rachel Carson's a murderer, facts be damned. The partisan left decides it doesn't like people opposed to affirmative action, and suddenly, all of those people are segregationists, racists, and would-be slaveowners. Meanwhile, the facts get lost in the shuffle and it becomes impossible for the rest of us to have a meaningful conversation.
4.27.2006 1:14pm
RBG (mail):
Freder--

My apologies for consistently referring to you as Feder in this thread.
4.27.2006 1:15pm
JRL:
"As an Englishman living in Durham I cannot begin to count the number of times I've been harassed and abused just walking down 9th Street."

How does one know to stop you as you are walking so they might harrass and abuse you? That is unless you've been trained at The Ministry of Silly Walks.
4.27.2006 1:33pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

When we are still arguing in this country whether or not evolution should be taught in our schools, the religious right is assaulting science (and people are so woefully ignorant that they discount evolution and don't know the difference between a scientific theory and the lay meaning of "theory"). That particular discussion should have been over in the 1920's.
I wasn't aware that there was any argument about whether to teach evolution in the public schools. There is an argument about whether critical arguments of evolution should be taught as well.
4.27.2006 2:00pm
Patent Law Student:
"Just because there is a market demand for something, that doesn't mean that thing is objectively good. Everybody loves potato chips. They are an undeniably tasty, crunchy, delicious snack and there is a huge demand for them. Yet, I doubt that even the marketing manager of Frito Lay would go on record saying they are good for you. He would probably weasel out and say they can be 'part of a healthy, balanced diet'"

Potato chips are objectively good. They make people happy. Consumers balance the cost of a potato chip, the negative health effects of a potato chip, and the joy that comes from eating a potato chip. It is improper to define "good" to only mean healthy. It is also improper to define what society needs by your own particular desires.

My point: if we really needed more scientists, engineers, etc. then the demand would go up and the pay would go up. The fact that lawyers are paid better demonstrates to me that society at large values lawyers, etc. more than engineers. Maybe this has something to do with the legal cartel that is the ABA.
4.27.2006 2:04pm
Steve:
I don't see any reason why the free market would necessarily result in appropriate renumeration for professions which give us a better society 50 years down the road. Someday, when we save the human race by colonizing other planets, maybe historians will trace it all back to the successful space program of the 1960s, but the free market didn't know the outcome at the time which is why Neil Armstrong didn't get paid a million bucks.
4.27.2006 2:07pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

My point: if we really needed more scientists, engineers, etc. then the demand would go up and the pay would go up. The fact that lawyers are paid better demonstrates to me that society at large values lawyers, etc. more than engineers. Maybe this has something to do with the legal cartel that is the ABA.
The demand for engineers is actually pretty high. But by the time many students reach college, their educations have been so deficient in math and science that the chance of becoming an engineer is small. Unfortunately, math seems to be one of those things that you have to "get" pretty early on, or it just doesn't happen.

All the way through high school, I thought that I was struggling with math--it was the only subject that I received a B in. Calculus was very, very hard on me. But in retrospect, I can see that really, I just wasn't very expert in math--and I was comparing myself to a lot of students who were very good at it.

I am not impressed with what I am seeing of how math is being taught in the schools today. I am not surprised that so many of the graduate students in math, science, and engineering, are coming from overseas. It seems as though our school systems just aren't capable to teaching math anymore--or perhaps our society has become so filthy rich and lazy that kids aren't prepared to work themselves hard enough to learn to do math.
4.27.2006 2:10pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
It is all about supply and demand. You say that the USA would be better off if there were more engineers, etc. as opposed to lawyers, etc., but if that was so, why doesn't the market reflect that. I might not have gone to law school if I could have found a better job with my engineering undergrad degree.

Seconded, from the other side. I'm too far into my career in software to start another career unless I absolutely have to, but I've been out of work some 21 out of the past 60 months (the last stretch because NASA was told that getting to Mars was more important than getting to Cleveland on time.) I've got the right education, technologies, buzzword-compliance, resume, and location. See Prof. Matloff's Debunking the Myth of a Desperate Software Labor Shortage. Several of my classmates, good engineers, have left the field permanently.

If there is a public policy need for more American engineers, we should encourage them, or at least not discourage them by flooding the market with H-1Bs and promoting off-shoring. Software might be the best job in America but just because it's nice work if you can get it doesn't mean it's a wise career choice. (If they're going to discount the lack of opportunity, being Kevin Federline is a much better job than being a software engineer.) I would not advise anyone with the choice to go into engineering.
4.27.2006 2:25pm
Rational Actor (mail):
RGB -
First, my apologies for not taking your request for empiricism at its face. I think that it would be extremely difficult to empirically demonstrate, on any scale beyond a small and localized community, a causal relationship that leads from (a) disdain of evolution to (b) disdain of applied science in general. But for arguments sake, if one was able to collect sufficient data, would you accept as causal a study that showed (a) an increase in negatively expressed views of evolution (i.e. disdain) followed by (b) an increased rejection of modern healthcare in favor of prayer, rejection of the use of statistics and probabilities to improve the accuracy of the census or other studies of large groups, etc.... I don't know if there is any way to dispositively prove causation of views without interviewing enough people to assess how their beliefs and disdain progressed over time.

And wow, is this discussion off topic....
4.27.2006 2:28pm
markm (mail):
"Carson wasn't arguing against DDT as an antimalarial. She was arguing against it as an agricultural pesticide."

Whether this was true or not of Carson, the vast majority of people inside and outside the environmental movement do not distinguish between antimalarial and agricultural usage. Quite aside from the environmentalists who are against all usage of any pesticides, if one mentions DDT in leftist or academic circles, you'll hear a collective gasp of horror. To the vast majority of people that have never objectively looked at the scientific evidence, even very small applications of DDT are as unpopular as NAMBLA.
4.27.2006 2:36pm
cathyf:
Don't go discouraging the anti-GMO luddites. Non-GMO corn isn't safe to feed to livestock in quantity, so it's good to have a ready market of useful idots to buy the pig-food rejects to feed to their kids.

cathy :-)
4.27.2006 2:38pm
Fern:
Well, my husband works for a Canadian physicist. The sense I get from my husband's boss is that the United States has gained more Canadian intellectuals than we have lost American intellectuals to Canada. So I think we can afford to lose the occasional law prof.
4.27.2006 2:42pm
Hoosier:
Frederson goes nuts on the RR's assault on science, then leaves. Alas. He could benefit from some "fraternal correction."

Yes, the RR is a threat to good science education, largely through their ability to influence textbook adoption. This scares off publishers who want to make good textbooks, but also want to make money. Why invest in a biology text that will have no chance of adoption in the second largest state in the nation? Better to just leave that evolution stuff aside.

But just as the RR rejects the modality of evolution, the academic left largely rejects its affects. Discoveries in evolutionary anthropology and brain science alike confirm certain things about the human being that is not acceptable under current orthodoxy. Most significant: Gender differentiation has been "selected" over the 4 million year history of homonids. Yet I am constantly reminded that "gender is a social construct." (The logic behind such debacles as Title IX).

Please don't dismiss this obscurantism as "not as serious" as that of the RR. The academic left controls institutes, hiring, and research money at amny major universities. And the "chilling effect" on researchers in a number of areas in biological sciences and psychology is significant.

Creationism on the religious right says that God made man one glorious day. Creationism of the secular left says that man mad gender/parental roles at some undefined time, through some vaguely-defined process. I don't care for either. But I work at a "major research university." So I get annoyed by the secularist orthodoxy on a daily basis.
4.27.2006 2:54pm
Hoosier:
"effects" (hit the wrong button.)
4.27.2006 2:55pm
markm (mail):
"The only advantage that DDT holds over any other pesticide in fighting Malaria bearing mosquitoes is its persistance." Freder, where remote villages in Africa are concerned, persistence is one of the most important characteristics. A very light spray of DDT just on the huts will discourage mosquitos for up to six months. Even getting back there to spray again every six months is pretty difficult. A less persistent pesticide might require making six to twelve trips into bush every year, and that's not going to happen.

As for the dangers of DDT:

1. There is a vast difference between spraying tons of it on a field and spraying a few ounces on a house.

2. The first solidly proven mechanism by which DDT seriously harms higher life forms was the discovery that it causes the eggshells of some birds to be very thin and likely to crack. Forty years later, that seems to still be the only well-demonstrated harm - and furthermore, it appears to be limited to raptors (like eagles, hawks, and vultures). The extinction of those species would be a tragedy, but the danger of that comes from widespread spraying of large quantities for agriculture, not from the tiny amount needed to keep mosquitos out of houses.
4.27.2006 2:58pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Perhaps if enough law professors announce plans to emigrate, Canada will close the border.

Nick
4.27.2006 3:01pm
RBG (mail):
Rational Actor--

No problem. I agree that the empirical analysis would be challenging. I think you're on the right track: one could look for correlations in attitudes toward science (or, more specifically, evolution) with attitudes toward the applied sciences; one might also look at whether, controlling for other factors, fundamentalists and evangelicals who adhere to creationism are more or less likely than the general populace to study or pursue careers in the applied sciences.

I have done none of these, so I'm in no better position than anyone else to speak for or against such a correlation; it's just that my experiences among fundamentalists and in a fundamentalist undergraduate institution--though anecdotal--lead me to question blanket assertions of such a relationship.
4.27.2006 3:07pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Steve:

"Someday, when we save the human race by colonizing other planets..."

Well, now that you put it that way, I'm convinced. In the name of interplanetary colonialism, a.k.a., the "bright future," I renounce capitalism.

But seriously, a "better" society 50 years from now is just another choice - a choice we are free to disregard in favor of a better society *today.* The fact that people do go into law, over science, just shows (among other things) that they would rather have nice things now, than have what may one day be a more stable economy. A perfectly reasonable choice - more so, than, umm, basing your decisions on the notion that we may one day live on the Moon.
4.27.2006 3:13pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
It is improper to define "good" to only mean healthy. It is also improper to define what society needs by your own particular desires.

I was going to compare lawyers to pornography, but I thought that would be going a step too far. My point is that there are some things that are objectively good or bad that the market does not necessarily create the proper demand for. Just because some lawyers make tons of money (and if you look at the income figures for lawyers, especially if you break down their salaries to an hourly rate--not what they bill, but what they get paid for the number of hours they actually work-- I bet a good plumber makes more than the average lawyer) doesn't mean that they are actually productive members of society (that is they actually produce a net benefit to society by increasing the GDP).

And give me a break--I hated being a lawyer so much I am actually going back to get my MS in engineering and I had to go to class.
4.27.2006 3:51pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
And now I have to go see my shrink because law school also left me clincally depressed.
4.27.2006 3:52pm
RBG (mail):
And give me a break--I hated being a lawyer so much I am actually going back to get my MS in engineering and I had to go to class.
And now I have to go see my shrink because law school also left me clincally depressed.


We do have more in common than I would have initially expected. (Well, I haven't left the law yet, but I sure do envy you.)
4.27.2006 4:13pm
Steve:
Just because some lawyers make tons of money... doesn't mean that they are actually productive members of society (that is they actually produce a net benefit to society by increasing the GDP).

Well, I dunno. Sticking to the business context, society needs a way to resolve disputes in an orderly fashion. A contract would be worth nothing without a legal system to enforce it, and we wouldn't have much of a GDP without contracts.

If there were no lawyers, how would you suggest two businesses resolve a dispute and get on with their productive activity? Fight a duel?
4.27.2006 5:00pm
Jason Fliegel (mail):
markm, I agree that the dangers of DDT (to the extent there are dangers) come from agricultural use, and that DDT should be used as an antimalarial. If you want to attack environmentalists who fight against using DDT in antimalarial applications, I'll be right beside you manning the barricades.

My problem, however, is with people who attack Carson or Silent Spring for positions that she never took. Based on what she wrote in Silent Spring, Carson would have supported using DDT to combat malaria.

It's also worth repeating that to the best of my knowledge, no country has ever banned DDT for use in antimalarial applications.
4.27.2006 5:01pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
If there were no lawyers, how would you suggest two businesses resolve a dispute and get on with their productive activity? Fight a duel?

I am course am being somewhat facetious. Of course lawyers are a necessary evil. But resolving disputes in court are a very inefficient way of sorting out differences and are not a net benefit to society (albeit more beneficial than having people break eachother's legs as a means of resolving disputes). But if a construction company is spending money on lawyers, it has less money to spend on building bridges, buildings and roads.
4.27.2006 5:22pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
2. The first solidly proven mechanism by which DDT seriously harms higher life forms was the discovery that it causes the eggshells of some birds to be very thin and likely to crack. Forty years later, that seems to still be the only well-demonstrated harm - and furthermore, it appears to be limited to raptors (like eagles, hawks, and vultures). The extinction of those species would be a tragedy, but the danger of that comes from widespread spraying of large quantities for agriculture, not from the tiny amount needed to keep mosquitos out of houses.

But of course, DDT production in the quantities that would be necessary only for malaria control is not economically feasible, so it is not the environmental whackos but the manufacturers that don't want to produce it for such limited use that are the real stumbling block. Again we are back to the same issue. We really don't care enough about poor people in third world countries dying of malaria to really do anything about it--except use it as a weapon to accuse our enemies of being heartless environmental extremists or capitalists.
4.27.2006 5:30pm
David Matthews (mail):
Freder,

"Thousands of tons of DDT are still being produced..." according to the World Wildlife Fund, and they say, "because of the availability of safer and effective alternatives for fighting malaria, WWF is calling for a global phaseout and eventual ban on DDT production and use."

This doesn't sound like the fault of greedy manufacturers....
4.27.2006 5:34pm
Rational Actor (mail):
That dueling companies (or CEOs) idea is kind of neat -- it could morph into a new reality tv show. Or perhaps, instead of lawyers, companies could hire "Champions" to pursue their cause in a winner-takes-all jousting match. Or, they could simply spray the offices of their adversary with DDT and see what happened.
And Hoosier, if you are still here, what makes Title IX a debacle? I am not saying that there are no valid objections to some things that have resulted from its interpretation, but I am not sure I understand why it is a "debacle based on the belief that gender is a social construct." And if you've left, no worries.
4.27.2006 5:44pm
RBG (mail):
Nope, it's definitely not those environmental whackos, but rather the greedy capitalist pigs, that are responsible for the unavailability of DDT for anti-malarial programs in the third world.

Or maybe not. From an essay in the July 22, 2000 issue of The Lancet:


Since the early 1970s, DDT has been banned in industrialised countries and the interdiction was gradually extended to malarious countries. The bans occurred in response to continuous international and national pressures to eliminate DDT because of environmental concerns. Global trends of decreasing numbers of sprayed houses started with changing strategy from the vector-control approach to malaria control. Despite objections by notable malariologists, the move away from spraying houses was progressively strengthened by WHO's malaria control strategies of 1969, 1979, and 1992. These strategies were adopted even though published WHO documents and committee reports have consistently and accurately characterised DDT-sprayed houses as the most cost effective and safe approach to malaria control. Changing the emphasis on house spraying was further strengthened by a WHO plan, first introduced by the Director General of WHO in 1979,to decentralise malaria-control programmes.

This plan was adopted in World Health Assembly Resolution 38.24 in 1985. From then on, for countries to qualify for foreign or international assistance, they were expected to comply with WHO guidance on house spraying and to incorporate malaria control programmes into primary health-care systems. Additionally, assistance from industrialised countries was often specifically contingent on not using DDT. Other mechanisms also have been used by environmental advocates to stop use of DDT for malaria control. A recent example is the agreement of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) that forced Mexico to stop producing and using DDT for malaria control. This agreement also eliminated a rare source of DDT for malaria control in other countries in South America.
4.27.2006 5:55pm
frankcross (mail):

Private lawyering provides a great public good, both in dispute resolution and in establishing the external value of setting the legal rules of the game.


But if a construction company is spending money on lawyers, it has less money to spend on building bridges, buildings and roads.


Sure, and if everyone were honest, there would be no need for police. I suppose you can say this is a necessary evil, but no more than for doctors (if there were no disease, we could spend less on doctors and more on roads) or firepersons (if there were no fires we would not need to devote resources to fire prevention or putting them out)
4.27.2006 6:01pm
Steve:
But if a construction company is spending money on lawyers, it has less money to spend on building bridges, buildings and roads.

Of course. But it's the existence of disputes that creates the need for lawyers, just as it's the existence of gravity that creates the need for hard hats. In a mythical world with no disputes, lawyers wouldn't add anything to a company's profits. But in the real world, they most certainly do. We couldn't have a modern economy at all without a dependable means of resolving disputes.
4.27.2006 6:02pm
Taimyoboi:
"Actually, I hope that as many law professors flee to Canada as possible. That will increase the market demand for those of us who remain!"

Wouldn't it also be the same for engineers, doctors and physicists?

If noncitizens who worked in those fields left the country, I would expect that you'd see prevailing wages for these degrees to rise. You'd get more American's going into these careers than ones that already have a surplus. Like say, law...
4.27.2006 6:15pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Of course. But it's the existence of disputes that creates the need for lawyers, just as it's the existence of gravity that creates the need for hard hats. In a mythical world with no disputes, lawyers wouldn't add anything to a company's profits. But in the real world, they most certainly do. We couldn't have a modern economy at all without a dependable means of resolving disputes.
While disputes create a need for law (and therefore lawyers), lawyers also create disputes. I don't believe that if every lawyer were sent to the bottom of the see that disputes would end, but there are ambulance-chasers out there looking for disputes that would otherwise not exist.

You might want to read Outgunned: Up Against The NRA--one of those books that is frightening in its honesty and ignorance of federal firearms law. It was written by one of the attorneys who tried to sue the gun industry out of existence with the claims of "negligent marketing"--and it is an amazing book. He worships the lead attorney on this effort (now dead) and expresses admiration at this ambulance-chaser's willingness to go into a burn ward (without authorization) to try and get a victim to "sign up" with him, and to fake a heart attack in a courtroom because he wanted to give his closing arguments on Monday morning--so the jury wouldn't have forgotten the emotion involved over the weekend. And this is someone that the authors admire!
4.27.2006 6:17pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
By the way, here's a review of Outgunned that I wrote a couple of years ago--but I can't for the life of me remember for what magazine--and now it is everywhere. Here's the conclusion. (This version seems to have been stripped of its footnotes.):
To those with knowledge of the subject, the grossness of the errors is astonishing — and because Outgunned lacks footnotes, it is impossible to determine on which sources the authors carelessly relied. Some of these errors are minor, and simply show the authors' firearms ignorance, such as several references to "Glock service revolvers." Glock has never made a revolver.

Is this nitpicking? No, because Brown and Abel tell us in a number of places that what they are doing with these lawsuits is acting "as a de facto fourth branch of government, achieving by litigation what had failed legislatively." If you don't understand these basic technical details, how can your extraconstitutional "fourth branch of government" come up with sensible laws?

More important than these careless errors about firearms are the careless errors about firearms laws — where, one would presume, a lawyer would be in his element. "The Assault Weapons Ban prohibits dealers from selling guns like Uzis and Tec-9s to anyone." Not true. The 1994 federal assault weapons law, which actually prohibits new manufacture and importation, and is not a ban, does not apply to "the possession or transfer of any semiautomatic assault weapon otherwise lawfully possessed under Federal law on the date of the enactment of this subsection."

The lawyers threatened Smith &Wesson with lawsuits to get them to accept a "Code of Conduct" that required makers to not sell guns that could be "quickly converted" into machine guns. That was already federal law, and has been for many years. Any weapon that "can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading" is already a machine gun under existing federal law. How many hours did they bill their taxpayer clients for drafting that provision?

Legal arguments are supposed to be a series of logical arguments based on facts, leading to conclusions. When the facts are so often wrong, it's hard to take seriously the conclusions — or those making the arguments.
4.27.2006 6:25pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Of course. But it's the existence of disputes that creates the need for lawyers, just as it's the existence of gravity that creates the need for hard hats. In a mythical world with no disputes, lawyers wouldn't add anything to a company's profits. But in the real world, they most certainly do. We couldn't have a modern economy at all without a dependable means of resolving disputes.

Okay, I'll tell you about the day that I decided that going to law school was the biggest mistake I made in my life and that all the lawyer jokes are true and that the practice of law was simply not for me.

After law school I took a position as an assitant regional counsel with Region IV U.S. EPA (I can just hear you all saying "figures"). When I went to law school I already had five years of experience working on Superfund sites under my belt on the technical side so I knew how the cleanups worked and I worked with potentially responsible parties and federal state agencies on cleanups so I was not some innocent, idealistic, tree-hugger out to save the world.

I was working on a major Superfund site that involved over 1000 Potentially Responsible Parties including a few major corporations that are household names, several federal agencies, including DoD, and hundreds of Mom and Pop and small businesses that had sent demimimus amounts of waste to the site. We (EPA) were trying to settle quickly with the deminimus contributors by negotiating a mass settlement with them where they would be absolved of future liability by paying a small fine (in most cases less than $1000). In the meantime, a dozen or so major commercial contributors of waste to the site were operating under a consent order to clean up the site. Their interests were supposedly being represented by the largest and most prestigious law firm in Atlanta and the most high profile enviromental attorney in Atlanta.

The best thing he could have done for his clients was to get DoD involved in the cleanup. They had contributed more than half of the waste, and some of the most expensive to remediate. DoD will sit on the sidelines until they are asked to participate, then they will cough up the money. I knew this and he should have. Yet, this attorney was hell bent on pursuing hundreds of small contributors, sending threatening letters and trying to intimidate the EPA into not settling with them because he wanted to extract thousands of dollars out of them. This was nothing but harrassment and driving up billable hours and completely unethical on his part. As I sat in negotiations with this attorney, I decided then and there that I wanted nothing further to do with the practice of law.
4.27.2006 6:31pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
It was written by one of the attorneys who tried to sue the gun industry out of existence with the claims of "negligent marketing"--and it is an amazing book.

Whether or not the lawyers got the gun laws or the manufacturers of the particular firearms correct, the unfortunate fact is (at least for you gun nuts) is that the claims of "negligent marketing" were, and probably remain, undoubtedly true. Until pressure from the NRA and their allies put an end to it, undercover cops were going into gun shops just over the city line from Chicago and openly boasting as they made mass purchases of firearms that they were making straw purchases or that they intended to resell them to gangbangers in the city. Yet the dealers willingly continued to sell them firearms and their suppliers continued to sell them inordinate amounts of guns without question.
4.27.2006 6:58pm
Steve:
That's a very good story, Freder, but you really cheated yourself out of the opportunity to observe far worse behavior...

Once upon a time, my star witness in a civil trial was a colorful gentleman, the former head of a big-city trade union who had done several years in federal prison for corruption. After he pleaded guilty, his son took over the union, put new people in place, and life went on.

In the course of investigating my own case, which was a completely separate business dispute, a number of witnesses with no axe to grind mentioned to me that, by the way, Dad hadn't actually done the thing he went to jail for. At first I just shrugged it off, but after more and more people kept alluding to it as fact, I did some digging and pretty well assured myself that yes, in fact, the guy had not broken the law.

"But why did he ever plead guilty?" I asked these people. "Take a look at who ended up as the union's lawyer in the new administration," they said. Sure enough, Dad's lawyer had sold him down the river at the behest of the son, who then took over the union and steered millions of dollars in legal work to the lawyer as a reward for his good deed.

Now, isn't that worse than some Superfund case?
4.27.2006 7:06pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
As an Englishman living in Durham I cannot begin to count the number of times I've been harassed and abused just walking down 9th Street.

The Daughters of the American Revolution are good at holding grudges. You never know who lost a great-great-great-great uncle at Camden or Cowpens.

Chuckle--DAR held its annual conventions next to Interior Dept in DC, and used our cafeteria. I made handouts and left them on the tables, copies of clippings on Rev. War recruiting practices. Memos from Washington asking officers to suppress the looting of friends as well as foes. An order that British deserters were NOT to be given alcohol, because the troops had been entertaining their new friends very well, and it was hard to get useful information from a man who was incoherently drunk....
4.27.2006 8:06pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Until pressure from the NRA and their allies put an end to it, undercover cops were going into gun shops just over the city line from Chicago and openly boasting as they made mass purchases of firearms that they were making straw purchases or that they intended to resell them to gangbangers in the city.

So why didn't ATF just bust them? A straw man sale is a federal felony, up to five years in prison. Sale to a person who intends use in a violent crime carries up to ten years. If that was the scenario, all they needed was the audiotapes and a quick trip to the grand jury to put an end to it. Any sale of two or more handguns to a person within a ten day period requires a written report to ATF, and failure to make that report is probably (I forget the details now) a felony, too.
4.27.2006 11:13pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
So why didn't ATF just bust them? A straw man sale is a federal felony, up to five years in prison. Sale to a person who intends use in a violent crime carries up to ten years. If that was the scenario, all they needed was the audiotapes and a quick trip to the grand jury to put an end to it. Any sale of two or more handguns to a person within a ten day period requires a written report to ATF, and failure to make that report is probably (I forget the details now) a felony, too.

Good question, probably because the NRA and their allies whined about entrapment and screamed about the "right to bear arms" and all the other nonsense they always spout.
4.27.2006 11:22pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Good question, probably because the NRA and their allies whined about entrapment and screamed about the "right to bear arms" and all the other nonsense they always spout.

A federal agency refuses even to bring charges because somebody whines about entrapment? Even when there *was* entrapment, let alone on the facts stated here?

NRA makes a cause celebre out of dealers who made mass sales to people who said "they intended to resell them to gangbangers in the city?"

The media were so friendly to NRA that they refused to report it?

This does seem a bit improbable .... material for press releases or fundraisers, perhaps.
4.28.2006 1:02am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

So why didn't ATF just bust them? A straw man sale is a federal felony, up to five years in prison. Sale to a person who intends use in a violent crime carries up to ten years. If that was the scenario, all they needed was the audiotapes and a quick trip to the grand jury to put an end to it. Any sale of two or more handguns to a person within a ten day period requires a written report to ATF, and failure to make that report is probably (I forget the details now) a felony, too.
Actually, they did. They got convictions, too. There are gun dealers (probably a very tiny number) who did not follow the law, and turned a blind eye to what were clearly strawman sales--and Chicago PD and ATF got them.

The rest of Frederson's claims are nonsense. How does a wholesaler (much less a manufacturer) know what constitutes an "inordinate" number of guns? Manufacturers fill orders; wholesalers fill orders. What would constitute an "inordinate" number of guns? A 200 square foot shop that ordered 100,000 guns a year would be pretty obvious--but neither the wholesaler or the manufacturer knows the size of the operation, or how they do business. For that matter, if they tried to make serious inquiries into a retailer's business practices, I would expect that they would be opening themselves up to lawsuit for restraint of trade.

Now, there is someone who has a legal obligation to look into these matters: ATF. But guess who has generally been more interested in pursuing technical violations by gun collectors, while ignoring requests from federal judges to pursue felons in possession?
4.28.2006 11:24am
NickM (mail) (www):
There were also gun dealers who were charged who quickly had charges dropped against them when they presented their records indicating that they were fully aware the purchaser was an undercover cop. [In one case, the dealer's employee also worked at a firing range, and knew the cop from the range.]

Finding out you just spent $10K from your investigations budget on a sting operation that backfired often leads to department higher-ups canceling the program.

Nick
4.28.2006 4:45pm