David Post makes an excellent point over at Volokh:
Pretty much every day, in pretty much every newspaper in the country, there is a story that goes something like this [taken from todays WSJ]: "Yesterday, the Dow Jones industrials fell xxx points to yyyy on new concerns about interest rates and anxiety over North Korea's missile tests." Or the Dow rose, due to "increasing optimism about prospects for peace in the Mideast." Or whatever. It's complete and utter nonsense. . . Are we really so desperate to believe that we can explain everything that we take some sort of comfort from stories like these?
The comments are interesting, too. I've had a similar thought in similar contexts; it's what I had in mind when I wrote this post, almost exactly two years ago.
They say that law school is supposed to teach you to think like a lawyer. I don't know whether it did that for me, but one thing it did do -- which is perhaps part of thinking like a lawyer -- is to make me very critical of claims about causation. Perhaps it's because I took a fair bit of economics and statistics (dumbed down for lawyers, of course) in law school, or perhaps it was all that discussion of proximate causation in first-year torts, or maybe it was evidence class. (My evidence prof wasn't the most popular professor among students, but I knew I'd like him when he told the class, early in the semester, something to the effect of, "cops perjure themselves all the time.") But in any event, in the past several years I've come to see that a great deal of what passes for "conventional wisdom" or "expert opinion" about many of the phenomena that affect our daily lives is nothing but rank speculation, given a veneer of legitimacy by the fact that it's repeated by "respectable" news media. (My respect for the news media has fallen even lower as a result. It's gotten so I can't even stand to watch TV news, because it hardly ever provides enough information to tell me anything useful.) Generally speaking, people are entirely too credulous and uncritical.
First - my coblogger has responded to many of Ted Frank's comments, but I hope to post a few thoughts later. I am in the middle of editing some articles and this is taking too much time. Thanks again to Ted for beinga good sport.
Second - I can't help but think that the State has blood on its hands the way it treated Ken Lay. I am not speaking about one member of the prosecution in particular - rather I am referring to the culture of throwing CEOs to the lions that has gripped us lately.
Today a gift was given to mankind: the gift of liberty. This gift was the culmination of God having put on earth at that moment in history a group of men whose intellect was unparalleled (and in my view has been so since). The Fourth evokes Patrick Henry's Speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses,some memorable quotes from which are:
Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston!
The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come. It is in vain, sir, to extentuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!