I’ve been listening to the Senate hearings to confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States on and off for the last several days. I can’t offer an informed opinion on Roberts. For that I suggest you turn to SCOTUSBlog (they’re liveblogging the proceedings), Ann Althouse, or Balkinization, preferably all three. That should give you a nice variety.
I do, however, have an opinion on the proceedings themselves. I don’t think that democracy is supposed to be an adversarial process. Sure, there are competing interests. But must there be winners and losers? It seems to me that our political process has become increasingly adversarial throughout my lifetime and I’d like to offer a speculation on why that might be so.
Here’s what Alexander Hamilton had to say about the elected representatives of the people in Federalist 36:
WE HAVE seen that the result of the observations, to which the foregoing number has been principally devoted, is, that from the natural operation of the different interests and views of the various classes of the community, whether the representation of the people be more or less numerous, it will consist almost entirely of proprietors of land, of merchants, and of members of the learned professions, who will truly represent all those different interests and views.
Please note the order. By members of the learned professions, of course, Hamilton certainly meant lawyers, physicians, teachers, and ordained ministers. Here’s how the Senate is constituted now:
|Assembly line worker||1|
Admittedly some of my assignments are judgment calls. I’ve placed anyone trained as a lawyer in the Lawyer category whether they had extensive practice or not. Many of the lawyers are actually lifelong politicians who’ve never done anything else. Note that more than 2/3’s of the Senators are lawyers or people who’ve never worked in anything other than government.
Of course, our economy has changed enormously since Hamilton’s time. Agriculture doesn’t have anything like the importance it did then when more than 90% of all of the people made their livelihood through farming. As the philosopher Mortimer Adler observed, agriculture is intrinsically cooperative. The farmer cooperates with nature.
The practice of law, on the other hand, under our system is adversarial. Lawyers are by inclination and training predisposed to approaching what they do in an adversarial light.
Now I know that many lawyers believe that a law degree qualifies you for anything. My dad certainly did—he was a lawyer and the smartest man I’ve ever known. Not being a lawyer I, to the contrary, believe that a law degree (and passing the bar and a rough-and-ready apprenticeship of a year or two during which you actually learn what lawyers do) qualifies you to practice law. Maybe to teach law.
It looks to me like we need a lot fewer lawyers in the Senate.
Oh, and why didn’t anyone tell me that Lincoln Chafee had worked for years as a blacksmith?