Sunday, August 26, 2012
Mitt, the Humility Problem, and Law Profs.
In the last two posts I have mentioned the similarity of Mitt Romney to many law professors. Some commentators have noted that Mitt and most law professors do not share the same political positions. I think that is correct on a very superficial level. What they both stand for is a class system in which those in control feel completely justified maintaining the status quo. And, of course, that status quo, just coincidentially, favors them. The other similarity is an ability to describe what others should do but an inability to actually adhere to those rules themselves. These are values that transcend tax rates and similar policies.
The Economist captured the essense of Mitt with this:"WHEN Mitt Romney was governor of liberal Massachusetts, he supported abortion, gun control, tackling climate change and a requirement that everyone should buy health insurance, backed up with generous subsidies for those who could not afford it. Now, as he prepares to fly to Tampa to accept the Republican Party’s nomination for president on August 30th, he opposes all those things. A year ago he favoured keeping income taxes at their current levels; now he wants to slash them for everybody, with the rate falling from 35% to 28% for the richest Americans."
Compare that with today's Mitt and you have no choice but to conclude he is an unprincipled person and a hypocrite. The Economist only calls it world championship flip flopping. In 30 years of law teaching I've seen similar flip-flopping and principles based on which way the wind is blowing. I can count on two hands the number of times someone actually stood up for principle as in; "We should not be doing this." I've seen people hate programs until they began to benefit them. I've seen people teach cooperation, mediation or ADR berate those lower in the pecking order. And, of course, like Mitt, law profs are often masters of "not technically a lie."
The catch is this: Their arrogance and sense of entitlement, like Mitt's, cancels out even the smallest possibility of humility. They would not regard any of this as hypocritical or dishonest or even flip flopping. Why? Because since birth they have been told they are special, the regular rules do not apply to them. This is different than simply being sleazy. Clinton was sleazy at times, Nixon was sleazy too. A bit of sleaze, unfortunately, is part of being an effective politician. The shamelessness (and I mean literally an inability to experience a sense of shame) of people like Mitt, like that of too many law professors I have known, makes a person dangerous regardless of their political views.