Saturday, October 04, 2014
"Pills," Drug Addiction, and the Veil of Ignorance.
The other day a few of us were feeling happy that our school had reportedly done well on the bar review passage rate. We had seen what appeared to be the official results. When I mentioned this to someone, he said, (jokingly, I trust) "wait till you see the next US News & WR rankings. You will be even happier." Of course the rankings can only make you so happy since they are only relied upon by people who have been under a rock but I said, "Why?" The answer was, "I wrote those bar results up and I will write up a the law school rankings. I just want people to feel happy."
"What a saint!" I did not think to myself.
Yes, it was life imitating the movie "The Matrix" only it was not really the red or blue or green pills but manufactured information that no one dared to investigate because who wants to become unhappy when you can be happy. In fact, law professors rely on a clever perversion of Rawls' veil of ignorance. This veil allows you be ignorant of the current reality.
The difference between the Matrix and being a law professor is that the profs are both the pharmaceutical companies -- manufacturers -- and their best customers. They create "pills" and then take them. They feel better but nothing changes except perception. Here are some of the best selling meds.
1. Your article will be published by a top ten law review. That's great, right? Why? Because a group of privileged 24 year olds who know very little about law or your area of expertise and knew nothing about law until about a two years ago decided it was not too risky and had enough appeal to authority that seemed like it was meritorious? Really, isn't that a bit like feeling joy about winning a figure skating contest judged by people who have only in the last year or so seen ice? Nevertheless, when that pill arrives you gobble it down and try to get a refill.
2. SSRN reports that your article is in the top ten most downloaded articles. SSRN has as many top ten categories as there are law professors. So, aside from the fact that the top ten scam is like the people who say they want to put you in Who's Who in the academic world if you pay $50 for a copy of the book, what else is going on? One thing is you helped destroy some trees. Another is that downloading is free, Think of it as more like someone picking up one of the 15 free newspapers next to the real ones. You put your newspaper out there and it was free. It is more than likely lining the floor of a parakeet's cage.
3. You look up your name on Westlaw and your articles have been cited 1500 times. That's a pretty good pill but how is it connected to reality? Did you change a mind? People mentioned your name in an effort to create their own pill that is likely to be as irrelevant as your own.
4. Several people on your faculty are asked to rank law schools. All of them rank their law school first and the one they graduated from second. Then they feel happy that those are ranked high. Actually this one happened not long ago. That's how much they need a fix.
5. Your hardback book just came out. Your mom will be so proud. Are you! Hmm. is it actually your last 4 articles loosely tied together? Is it a collection of articles written by others at your request and that were acceptable to you because of who they were and not what was said? That's all the medication you need. It does not matter that it is not evidence of new ideas or that only a small handful of people will read anything in the work, After all, others, also taking meds, will regard it as a good thing.
So, what if law profs dropped their version of the veil of ignorance and went into rehab. Are there any pills that make a law professor feel better and do so without the veil. I do not know. There is a pill can make things better but seem not to make law profs feel better since so many veiw it as poison-- teach as many students as possible and tell them everything you know. That pill is not a big seller. Not FDA or AALS approved to be safe and effective, I suppose.