Second look at socialized lawyers?

Further to yesterday’s point about how a complicated mass of laws can be used to smack down citizens who find themselves in violation of rules they never knew existed, conservative writer Mark Steyn has been embroiled in a years-long legal battle with Dr. Michael Mann, inventor of the phony “hockey stick” graph that has been so integral to the Church of Global Warming’s theology.  

Steyn, laboring under the mistaken impression that Americans have some sort of “freedom of speech,” wrote something Mann decided was insulting.  The global warming movement’s propensity to “win” arguments by suppressing dissent led to a grueling, fantastically expensive courtroom struggle… or, really, more of a courtroom pre-struggle, because after years of work and over a million dollars in total legal expenses, they’re essentially still arguing over whether to have the actual trial at all.  Among other darkly amusing episodes in this farce was Mann falsely claiming to be a Nobel laureate, and suggesting that insulting a Nobel laureate was inherently worse than saying something bad about lesser creatures, as though Nobel prizes emit some sort of radiation that dissolves the First Amendment on contact.

Steyn discusses the history of the case here.  As he often remarks, “the process is the punishment.”  He made it this far through the process because he had the support of the magazine he wrote for, National Review, but now the case (and some subsequent comments Steyn made about it) have caused a rift between the writer and his publisher.  He’s on his own from here on out, which has led him to contemplate the long-resisted step of opening a legal defense fund.  

While discussing that possibility in a post on Saturday night, he quotes a remarkable statistic from Conrad Black: “The US has 5 percent of the world’s population, 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated people, and 50 percent of the world’s lawyers, who invoice almost 10 percent of US GDP (around $1.4 trillion annually.)

How often have we heard such statistical comparisons offered as one of the reasons we had to nationalize the health insurance industry?  (You’ll very soon be hearing the even worse percentages consumed on health insurance due to the failure of ObamaCare as a reason for fully nationalizing medicine itself.)  It’s risky to do anything significant in America without expensive legal representation.  You really need to pay for that legal protection in advance, hiring a law firm to advise you on everything you do or say – lest you find yourself abruptly hauled into court for, say, improperly bundling a laughably small amount of money for a friend’s nearly-hopeless political campaign.  You really want to pay some lawyers to review every square inch of your paperwork first, so you don’t get busted for doing 59 in a 55-mph campaign-finance zone in your little compact car, while huge semi trucks full of political cash blast past you at a hundred miles an hour without the cops batting an eye.

Where are the calls to offer Americans relief from the excessive burden of legal costs, which is currently gobbling up ten percent of our national Gross Domestic Product?  Where’s Barack Obama to castigate those greedy lawyers, the way he once accused doctors of being tonsil-thieving profiteers?  

Of course, we don’t want to fully nationalize the legal profession, because we know what would happen: legal fees would eat up even more of our GDP, but now the lawyers would be “free,” paid with bags of freshly printed deficit cash, which would become part of the nation’s vast, featureless porridge of debt, which would sour into inescapable demands for higher taxes when the socialists decided to slip on their absurd “deficit hawk” costumes in a few years.  But lack of access to affordable legal care is clearly hurting Americans, especially those with pre-existing legal conditions.  I can’t think of many ObamaCare arguments that couldn’t be easily adapted into a case for strict mandates to bring those costs down.

Or, of course, we could simply reduce the size of government and the crushing burden of our legal code.  But that’s just crazy talk, right?


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