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10/22/13 Lexington: Lawyers, beware lawyers | The Economist More from The Economist Subscription kate@jerichocap.com World politics Business & finance Economics Science & technology Culture Blogs Debate Multimedia Print edition This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Review our cookies information for more details Lexington Comment (83) E-mail Print Reprints & permissions Lawyers, beware lawyers The dangers of taking a le
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  10/22/13Lexington: Lawyers, beware lawyers | The Economistwww.economist.com/news/united-states/21588120-dangers-taking-legalistic-approach-americas-budget-wars-lawyers-beware-lawyers1/4 More from The EconomistSubscriptionkate@jerichocap.com World politicsBusiness & financeEconomicsScience & technologyCultureBlogsDebateMultimediaPrint edition This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you ar e agreeing to our use of cookies. Review our cookies information for more details In this section Last-minutemenRoads less travelled Oct 19th 2013 | From the print edition Lexington Lawyers, beware lawyers The dangers of taking a legalistic approach to America’s budget wars EXAMINE the latest budget stand-off to shame Washington and embarrass America, andlawyers are everywhere. An ambitious Republican, Senator Ted Cruz (once solicitor-generalof Texas) played a large role in triggering the crisis. Other lawyer-politicians led efforts to pullthe country back from the brink. Early outlines of a deal came from a dozen independent-minded or swing-state Republican and Democratic senators, nine of them lawyers bytraining. Further heavy lifting fell to the Senate’s Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid, andhis Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell, both former lawyers (though only Mr Reid canclaim the distinction of being targeted with a car bomb, shortly after declining bribes from thewrong sort of Nevada businessman). President Barack Obama is a lawyer, as is histreasury secretary, Jack Lew. Though fewer than one in 200 Americans has a law licence,the profession can lay claim to a third of the current House of Representatives and to morethan half the seats in the Senate.For comparison, in both Britain’s House of Commons and its Canadian counterpart just onein seven members is a lawyer, and one in 15 deputies in the French Assemblée Nationale. ALexington’s Law suggests itself: just as Britain should limit its cabinet to two old-Etonians,Congress should try to rub along with no more than two dozen Harvard or Yale Lawgraduates at a time.The imbalance is not new: more than half the men who signedthe Declaration of Independence had a legal training. But alegalistic approach to politics is no longer serving America  Advertisement Comment (83)E-mailPrintReprints & permissions Like 366   Print edition Oct 19th 2013Oct 12th 2013Oct 5th 2013Sep 28th 201 From the print edition Oct 19th 2013  10/22/13Lexington: Lawyers, beware lawyers | The Economistwww.economist.com/news/united-states/21588120-dangers-taking-legalistic-approach-americas-budget-wars-lawyers-beware-lawyers2/4 Purple heartThe Christie recipeBreaking the silenceStronger than the storm Lawyers, beware lawyers Reprints Related topics well. Today’s budget wars are deeply political. They reflectunresolved debates that divide the country: over equality andredistribution, risk-taking and safety nets, and the role of government itself. Seen through foreign eyes, the currentdysfunction within Congress is at once distinctively Americanand recognisable as a political crisis within a grand coalition:in essence the Tea Party is walking out on other members of the Republican alliance, whom you might call the BusinessParty, the National Security Party and the Christian ValuesParty. But too often, these budget battles are being fought withlegal arguments about precedent and legitimacy, advanced bypoliticians trained in the adversarial, prove-me-wrongtraditions of American law.Even Republicans who loathe Mr Cruz defend theconstitutional principles underpinning his scheming. They callit both lawful and proper for Congress to close bits of the government or to thwart federalborrowing in pursuit of broader policy goals. They accuse Mr Obama of scheming to opt outof spending curbs that currently crimp the budget, though these are “the law of the land”. For their part Democrats call Obamacare the settled law of the land and accuse Republicans of seeking to set precedents on budget-making that, if allowed to stand, would make Americaungovernable. Congress has a duty to pay the spending bills that it has passed, thunder Mr Lew and other officials.“Lawyers as Leaders”, a new book by Deborah Rhode, a Stanford law professor, pondersthe extraordinary power wielded by American lawyers. As noted by Alexis de Tocquevillenearly two centuries ago, the clout of America’s legal establishment is boosted by a nationalhabit of asking judges to decide knotty political questions. In modern times courts havetriggered giant shifts in fields from civil rights to abortion laws or the regulation of greenhouse gases, often in the absence of a national democratic consensus. These areoften, rightly, points of pride. Yet judge-made laws have often proved fragile, and vulnerableto challenge.There are parallels in public attitudes to Congress and the law. In polls, fewer than one infive Americans say lawyers make a big contribution to society or display high ethicalstandards—putting the profession even lower than such guttersnipes as journalists. Suchdisdain is trumped only by the sempiternal public contempt for Congress and car salesmen.One study found that three-quarters of Americans think lawyers are “more interested inwinning than in seeing that justice is served”. On the other hand, individual lawyers arerather popular. Most consumers who hired a lawyer were “very satisfied”. As Ms Rhode drilynotes, people appear to want an advocate who serves their interests, but deplore theprofessional norms that result when everyone else wants the same. Sack ’em all For many decades voters seemed similarly conflicted about Congress, hating the institutionwhile rather liking their own local member of it. This similarity was no coincidence.Washington was a town in which lawyer-lobbyists whispered in the ears of lawyer-legislators, generating thick stacks of tax codes and business regulations that were opaqueto outsiders, lucrative for a few, and sufficiently larded with federal subsidies and pork tosoothe disgruntled voters. A public backlash hit the politico-legal world after the Watergatescandal, in which almost every major participant was a lawyer, starting with PresidentRichard Nixon and two attorneys-general. Today another backlash looms. Congress can nolonger buy as much love with new highways, bridges or subsidies: money is tight, andsocial-media watchdogs stand ready to denounce any whiff of pork. An October 10th pollfound a record 60% of Americans willing to sack and replace every member of Congress,including their own. LexingtonBarack ObamaRepublican Party (UnitedStates)United States RecommendedCommented Follow The Economist  Latest blog posts - All times are GMT Most popular Recent Activity Gordon Siu recommends Driving them out of business. about 2 months ago How science goes wrong 10,507 people recommend this. Trouble at the lab 6,000 people recommend this. Scoring drugs 16,078 people recommend this. Look down, look up, look out! One person recommends this. Facebook social plugin The internet and culture : Convenienceisn't everything Prospero - 11 mins ago The Economist explains : How do bike-sharing schemes shape cities? The Economist explains - 3 hours 35 mins ago Kenya and the ICC : Trying trials Baobab - Oct 22nd, 22:57 Edward Burtynsky photographs water  :Snapping from a hole in a Cessna Prospero - Oct 22nd, 18:52 Airline customer service : Mr O’Learytakes to Twitter  Gulliver - Oct 22nd, 17:14 Pensions : Save yourself  Buttonwood's notebook - Oct 22nd, 16:53 Low-cost tablet wars : You won't find an Apple under every Christmas... Schumpeter - Oct 22nd, 16:05 More from our blogs »  10/22/13Lexington: Lawyers, beware lawyers | The Economistwww.economist.com/news/united-states/21588120-dangers-taking-legalistic-approach-americas-budget-wars-lawyers-beware-lawyers3/4 Classified ads Into that combustible environment come politicians eager to portray their opponents asflouting legal norms. The right bears a heavy share of blame. In lots of other countries,protesters call for unpopular leaders to resign. The banners waved by Americanconservatives call for Mr Obama to be impeached. Even mainstream Republicans inCongress are quick to call the president a law-breaker. But politicians of both parties are tooeager to denounce the other side’s conduct as not just wrong, but as illegitimate. Whatroom does that leave for compromise? Economist.com/blogs/lexingtonFrom the print edition: United States   24 View all comments (83)Add your comment Related items Want more? Subscribe to The Economist   and get the week's mostrelevant news and analysis. Recommend Share4 5 TOPIC: »Lexington Crises in America and Italy: When not in RomeThe Economist explains itself: Where do TheEconomist’s unusual names come from?Lexington: Farming as rocket science TOPIC: »Barack Obama Barack Obama's speech: Is the president trolling?Shutdown politics: Romanticism, meet realityThe fiscal deal in Washington: Worse thanEurope, really TOPIC: »Republican Party (United States) Tea-party Republicans: Populists, presidents andparliamentsThe debt-ceiling deal: Last-minutemenThe shutdown: Why we get government byentitlement TOPIC: »United States The Economist explains: Could Puerto Ricobecome America's 51st state?Money talks: October 21st 2013: Main Street'srevengeThe Economist explains: Why are so manypeople leaving the Mississippi Delta?  Advertisement Products & events Stay informed today and every day Get e-mail newsletters Subscribe to The Economist's  free e-mailnewsletters and alerts. Follow The Economist   on Twitter  Subscribe to The Economist's  latest articlepostings on Twitter  Follow The Economist   on Facebook See a selection of The Economist's  articles,events, topical videos and debates on Facebook. Advertisement Problems withscientific research How science goeswrong Unreliable research : Trouble at the lab The fiscal deal in Washington : Worse thanEurope, really Politics this weekLetters : On Spain, Bulgaria, David Cameron, thecensus, art, missing people, roundabouts, energy,consultants 12345 Like 366  10/22/13Lexington: Lawyers, beware lawyers | The Economistwww.economist.com/news/united-states/21588120-dangers-taking-legalistic-approach-americas-budget-wars-lawyers-beware-lawyers4/4 Chair of the Courtof the Bank of E… Jobs.economist.com CountryEconomist (Grade:IV/V) Jobs.economist.com Deputy RegionalDirector for theEa… Jobs.economist.com PublicManagementSpecialist Jobs.economist.com [+] Site Feedback Copyright © The Economist Newspaper Limited 2013. All rights reserved. SectionsDebate and discussionBlogsResearch and insights Contact usMy accountSubscribePrint editionDigital editionsEventsJobs.Economist.com United StatesBritainEuropeChina Asia AmericasMiddle East & AfricaBusiness & financeEconomicsMarkets & dataScience & technologyCultureMultimedia libraryThe Economist debatesWhat the world thinksLetters to the editor The Economist Quiz Americas view AnalectsBabbageBanyanBaobabBlightyButtonwood's notebookCharlemagneDemocracy in AmericaEastern approachesErasmusFeast and famineFree exchangeGame theoryGraphic detailGulliver NewsbookPomegranateProsperoSchumpeter The Economist explainsTopicsEconomics A-ZSpecial reportsStyle guideThe World in 2013Which MBA?The Economist GMAT Tutor Reprints and permissions The Economist Group » The Economist Intelligence UnitThe Economist Intelligence UnitStoreThe Economist Corporate NetworkIdeas People MediaIntelligent LifeRoll CallCQEuroFinanceThe Economist Store View complete site index » Contact usHelpAbout usAdvertise with usEditorial StaffStaff BooksCareersSite index AccessibilityPrivacy policyCookies infoTerms of use
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