Thursday, January 29, 2009
Phil Ochs, Limousine Liberals and Going Green
In a comment too rich to be relegated to a comment, Professor Eric Fink of Elon College, who has his own most excellent blog, reminds you -- not me because I never knew -- that Phil Ochs captured the notion of a liberal years ago with the observation that liberal means: "Ten degrees to the left of center in good times. Ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally." I'd say that pretty much captures most law professors and my description of events at my school in the post that is immediately below this one.
The frequent complaint is that there are very few conservative or libertarian professors or, put differently, too many liberals. There are too few conservatives and libertarians for most law faculties to be intellectual interesting but tenure sometimes solves that as closet doors open. Perhaps an even better case can be made that there are practically no law professors whose views represent the left. One indicator of having some leftist leanings is a willingness to talk about class but law professors rarely go there. As my friend once said, "Discussions of class are too close to the bone."
I think the appropriate term here is limousine liberal. I've thrown the term around not really knowing how it originated so I googled it. At least one view is that it originated with the 1969 mayoral race between Lidsay and Procaccino.
One of the more bizarre illustrations of limosine liberalism (a term that I now think is redundant) involves the purchase by supposedly greens of pollution rights. It's a crazy combination of the Coase Theorem and limousine liberalism. Feel guilty about driving your SUV, limo or flying the private jet? Just buy some carbon credits. No less pollution but someone else pollutes less so you can. Is this something like paying someone to take your place in the army? So, as I understand it, it's OK to pollute as long as you win the right in an auction. Guess who wins those auctions -- money counts, not need. Duh, doesn't it make more sense to buy them and not use them?