Tuesday, April 06, 2010

West Virginia

Watching the news about coal miners in West Virginia is hard. My grandfather arrived at Ellis Island from Italy as a 16 year old and went directly to West Virginia to mine coal until the day he died putting on his work boots. My dad and uncles all spent time in the mines before the family escaped to Massachusetts and eventually Florida. All lived their lives as working class people

Many of them have the same characteristics as the widows and relatives on the TV news -- overweight, poor teeth, weathered, bad grammar and poorly educated. You might find them at Walmart on Friday night. Why Friday night? If you have to ask stop reading and go back to your cushy life. Friday is payday for these folks and on that day they get groceries and buy other things they need.

So what's the point? A tragedy for a law professor is teaching on Friday or having to grade essay questions. The idea of teaching extra classes? You must be kidding! Maybe having a law review editor make an unwarranted change. Do I really think these things are tragedies that they regard as as on a par with the deaths of coal miners. Not really. On the other hand, do I think they regard their petty needs -- new office furniture, a new paint job in the office, getting a full year sabbatical, teaching anytime other than 11-2 M-W -- as comparable to a coal miner's need for dental work, a physical exam, special training for a "slow child?" Absolutely. In fact, if you applied economics to this this, I think law professors experience more disutility from their unmet petty needs and unmet expectations that many working class people feel a result of not having far more basic problems.

Too many law professors I know would not know justice if it bit them on the ass.

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