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December 28, 2006

Comments

Although I'm looking forward to the day that his agenda of "economic populism" causes him to go Lou Dobbs on all your asses and declare his support for a giant dome over the US to protect us from better-life-seekers and assorted work-wanters

Huh?

Huh?

Suggests we need a fence to keep out Mexican immigrants.

Suggests we need a fence to keep out Mexican immigrants.

Who, Dobbs or Edwards?

I have no strong opinion of Edwards pro or con. I also don't see anything remotely like Dobbs' call for fencing the border in any of Edwards' statements. I haven't looked that hard, but I haven't seen anything remotely like it.

What is the connection between Edwards' calls for economic equity and Dobbs' hard-line attitude toward immigration? They do not seem related to me. I don't see how you get from one to the other. This post reads like a total non-sequitur.

In other words -- Huh?

Who, Dobbs or Edwards?

Edwards, though he likely wouldn't suggest a fence, I'm guessing.

A general distrust of my natural enemy -- trialius lawyerius

So what were you doing in Florida a few short weeks ago if not being a trial lawyer (or is this some weird form of self-hate)?

von, aren't you an attorney?

What sort of attorney considers trial lawyers his "natural enemy"? Or do your clients read this blog?

For "trial lawyers," please read "plaintiffs' lawyers." I'm sure von has no problem with defendants' lawyers, just plaintiffs and their ridiculous, frivolous claims. Defendants are like demigods, or something.

Without plaintiffs' lawyers, all defendants' lawyers become unemployed. That's why they're not our "natural enemy."

After 8 years of Bush, even "trialius lawyerius" looks good.

Can you elaborate on what Lou Dobbs has to do with John Edwards, von?

I'm guessing you see some sort of natural or inevitable progression from caring about the poor to protectionism into nativism and anti-immigration, but more elaboration, and less content-freeness might be helpful.

I think what von is suggesting is that the netroots' newfound love of populism as a path to electoral victory is going to bite them in the ass at some point.

I'd suggest there is a difference between populism and pandering, and Dobbs stands firmly on the pandering side. More on Dobbs, the big fat hypocrite.

I'm sure von has no problem with defendants' lawyers, just plaintiffs and their ridiculous, frivolous claims.

It's well known that defendants never make frivolous claims. While there are many needless frivolous lawsuits launched by plaintiffs, there has never been a needless lawsuit generated by a defendant's frivolous refusal to honor an obligation.

It's well known that defendants never make frivolous claims.

It is also true that defendants never file frivolous motions to delay and make groundless objections to discovery requests.

Bernard: Unless they're poor or middle-class, of course. The virtue of the defendant rises with their income and assets.

Von: once again we are delighted to see Republicans setting their customary high standard for temperance of thought and dignity of expression.

...a Republican declares he's not going to support a possible Democratic candidate for President.

Color me surprised.

I also note that it is pleasing to see that Republicans are willing to be consistent in their general outlook - it's not just the ones who are gay or bi who hate their own sexual identity, nor just chronic gamblers who want to preach about conserving one's assets and avoiding risk, nor champions of public decency who say "fuck you" to their peers, the same spirit can manifest with regard to employment, and presumably a lot else. Americans thinking to themselves, "Gosh, I hope there's still a party for me that supports my willingness to do and be things I hate and condemn in public," will be relieved to see that the Republicans continue to offer them a good home.

While there are many needless frivolous lawsuits launched by plaintiffs, there has never been a needless lawsuit generated by a defendant's frivolous refusal to honor an obligation.

I remember a certain "tort reform" diary at Redstate, where von and I were actually on the same side, arguing that a certain Republican proposal was stupid.

I made the case that gosh, we ought to enforce sanctions more stringently against frivolous lawsuits, but we should make sure sanctions get imposed for frivolous defenses as well.

You never heard such wailing from the intellectually dishonest locals. "No, no, that's not right! You're entitled to force the plaintiff to prove his allegations!" Yes, I suppose you are, and if you do so even though you know those allegations to be true, then you ought to pay the court for its time.

So I'll take this opportunity to declare my lack of support for his candidacy.

Although Jesusgirlac beatme to it, this is really dog bites man.

Allow me to declare my lack of support for Mitt Romney's, Sam Brownback's and John McCain's candidacy.

Make that candidacies.

Without plaintiffs' lawyers, all defendants' lawyers become unemployed. That's why they're not our "natural enemy."

What's the old saw about a town with one lawyer becoming a town with two?

I made the case that gosh, we ought to enforce sanctions more stringently against frivolous lawsuits, but we should make sure sanctions get imposed for frivolous defenses as well.

You never heard such wailing from the intellectually dishonest locals. "No, no, that's not right! You're entitled to force the plaintiff to prove his allegations!" Yes, I suppose you are, and if you do so even though you know those allegations to be true, then you ought to pay the court for its time.

Agreed.

As to the initial post, nice drive-by I suppose.

For the record, the phraseology about "paying the court for its time" was stolen from a blistering lecture by a kickass Bush appointee I recently appeared in front of.

So is there supposed to be some actual content to the criticism that John Edwards is a "trial lawyer," or are we just supposed to read "trial lawyer" the same way a six-year-old would read "poopy-face"?

Any time Hilzoy wants to start up her own blog, by the way, I'd be happy to read it.

Hope Hilzoy posts about the Republican presidential candidates she won't be supporting in '08. Wouldn't want her silence on the matter to be misinterpreted as implicit support for Tom Tancredo.

oddly enough, von's post makes me grumpier than usual. must be end-of-the-year blues.

after all, i'm sure that the forty or so corporations that dumped rocket fuel into the primary drinking water supply of a blue-collar community that i represent over the last 50 years or so would volunteer to clean up the pollution,

but for the awfulness of the trial liars (excuse me, lawyers) that prevents them from doing so.

[yes, corporate counsel are on my sh*t list right now. pettifogging, bill-padding, rules-abusing slimeballs the lot of them.]

[ahem. except, of course, when i change hats and represent corporate entities.]

I'm impressed that you've represented your community for over fifty years.

(Smiley for teasing goes here.)

matttbastard: I've been found out!

Color me unimpressed by Tancredo, what's his name from California -- the one I still think might be ensnared in the Duke Cunningham scandal, McCain (used to like him, though I rarely agreed with him, before he began groveling before Jerry Falwell and advocating the "surge"), Giuliani (??!!), Brownback (oh goody: the Opus Dei President), and Romney, about whom my MA friends and acquaintances have absolutely nothing good to say. And that's not because he's a Republican -- they have been more than willing to praise Republicans in the past. Just not this one.

Also, if Inhofe runs, I don't like him either. Or Graham. Hagel I could live with.

I preemptively announce my opposition to Dick Armey, Mitch McConnell, and anyone in the current GOP Congressional leadership.

I am sure all these worthies are devastated to learn that they won't be getting my vote so long as the Democrats don't bring back Pol Pot from the dead and run him.

Make that candidacies.

Might as well be a mass noun.

Oh, and if Von wants to back up his insinuation that Edwards is anti-immigration with actual facts, he's free to do so at any time. I realize that reality has been out of style on his side of the aisle for a good long while now, but every so often I get the nostalgic hankering for an argument that relies on actual goddamn evidence instead of name-calling and posturing.

Can you elaborate on what Lou Dobbs has to do with John Edwards, von?

i'll take a guess:

Edwards' strong anti-poverty / 2-Americas stance means he's a populist protectionist who's gonna start cracking down on immigrants who take the jobs of good decent working Americans, because that's the only way to really conduct good class warfare. or, at least he'll have to swing in that direction to really pull off a 'populist' kind of campaign.

i don't buy any of it.

i'd vote for Edwards in a second. unfortunately, NC's late primary means i'll never get the chance.

Gary, are you trying to cheer me up?

[re-reads post.]

ooh, bad sentence. bad. bad. bad.

Eh, I take back my 5:27, though it was partially tongue in cheek, cleary von's reference to "trialius lawyerius" was fully (or meant in jest, if there's a difference).

Plus in the "Lou Dobbs on all your asses" portion, "your" can only refer to the commenters here, also a bit of a fun-poke, cause I would guess von wouldn't support such an action.

Though I will say that a surcharge on the oil industry is quite warranted as a counterbalance to the separate tax code they've managed to enact for themselves.

"...because that's the only way to really conduct good class warfare."

The only ways to conduct good class warfare involve guillotines or basement shootings.

Goodness, did I say that? Just hyperbole and metaphor, as if I would countenance the murder of Bourbons and Romanovs.

I fear Edwards is a phony populist, who will use the poor to protect the rich and rape the middle class's trust fund. Decent politics starts with a top marginal tax rate over 50% and a capital income treated like labor income. When "Eat the Rich" is number X on Edwards campaign platform I will look again.

Not that I am fond of populism, which usually is, as von says, associated with nationalism, xenophobia, and protectionism.
It is "Workers of the World Unite" after all.
And I am glad von supports open borders and labor as free to move as capital.

Does this make up for being a meanie to Josh?
Jees, I was reading Trevino before Yglesias. I think. I know the guy.

Well, Bob, it is interesting that you get lectured to for ad homs, presumably on the notion that it might drive away fair-minded Republicans, but the opposite doesn't seem to hold. The only explanation I can see is that in the former case, it might make a difference, but in the latter, even von knows it won't.

OT - That was quick:

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, sentenced to death for his role in 148 killings in 1982, will have his sentence carried out by Sunday, NBC News reported Thursday. According to a U.S. military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, Saddam will be hanged before the start of the Eid religious holiday, which begins at sundown Saturday.

The hanging could take place as early as Friday, NBC’s Richard Engel reported.

Wow, so much for hanging him the day before the State of the Union. I guess the Iraqis aren't letting Rove handle the scheduling anymore.

Unless I'm mistaken, Von voted for Kerry, so I have to disagree with the "man bites dog" criticisms, though the post seems pointless with no explanation of why he dislikes Edwards.

KCinDC, Von voted for Kerry, as I recall his explanation, because Bush was clearly impossible - because someone had to replace Bush, and the Democratic candidate (which was Kerry) was it. That didn't make Von "not Republican", and it doesn't mean (since Bush isn't running next time) that he won't vote for the Republican selected by the party in 2008.

If Von were a registered Democrat, which to the best of my knowledge and belief he is not (if I'm wrong about this, all the rest of my argument falls to the ground) his announcement that he would not be supporting Edwards would mean - presumably - that he would not be voting for Edwards in the primary in his state.

Were we actually into 2008 and knew who the two candidates for President were, Von's announcement that he wouldn't vote for Edwards would be meaningful - we would know, since he did vote for a Democratic candidate last time when the Republican incumbent was plainly an utter disaster, that Von can vote cross party when his party's candidate is a disaster.

Since we're still in the period when candidates declare themselves for the primary, Von's announcement that he wouldn't vote for Edwards for President is either just completely meaningless, judging by past track record (because Von will vote for Edwards if the Republican guy is worse, but he'll vote Republican if given any option worth voting for) or else is yet another example of a Republican trying to give advice to Democrats... and when Republicans do that, you know it's going to be bad advice, since by definition, Republicans do not want Democratic government.

Post updated, to reflect some of the comments above.

How interesting to learn that von was in class-action defense. I spent several years on the plaintiffs' side of the class-action bar, and if I ever crossed swords with von (which would be kinda funny), I'd wager that we kicked his rear, not because I'm a better lawyer but because (contrary to popular opinion) we worked hard to make sure we picked good cases to bring, and for the most part we got it right.

"But even if your firm was good, some on the plaintiffs' side are just plain sleazy!" Fair enough. But, since I've also spent close to 10 years of my career on the defense side of the street, I'll just add this.

I have never, in history, seen a defense firm even CARE about the merits of a case before deciding to take it on. You're willing and able to pay our hourly rate, come aboard, we'll do the best we can for you! And if it turns out you've got no case, well then, we'll make life hard for the plaintiff and fight hard to get you the most favorable settlement we can. That's how the game is played. But if a plaintiffs' lawyer says "ugh, this case looks weak, but I'll see if I can't get you a decent settlement," why that's the height of sleaze and he's a disgrace to the profession. Note the asymmetry!

Incidentally, I'm totally puzzled by von's statement that trial lawyer is not synonymous with plaintiffs' lawyer (because some plaintiffs' lawyers rarely try cases), given that he goes on to state he dislikes trial lawyers because of his experience in class-action defense. Von, surely you know class-actions almost never go to trial, so why would class-action defense lead you to distrust "trial lawyers"?

How interesting to learn that von was in class-action defense. I spent several years on the plaintiffs' side of the class-action bar, and if I ever crossed swords with von (which would be kinda funny), I'd wager that we kicked his rear, not because I'm a better lawyer but because (contrary to popular opinion) we worked hard to make sure we picked good cases to bring, and for the most part we got it right.

And, undoubtably, filed suit in the right jurisdiction -- i.e., downstate Illinois and/or the Rio Grande valley.

Another excellent example of asymmetry. Where a defendant gets to have a say on the issue of venue (as they often do in, for example, an MDL proceeding), I have never seen a defendant request anything other than what they perceive as the most favorable venue. Nor have I ever seen a defense lawyer counsel their client, "You should really agree to venue X instead. The results won't be as good, but it seems more fair."

Yet when plaintiffs' lawyers exercise their right to choose a favorable venue, it's an example of near-total-scamdom!

As it happens, I never filed suit in any of the venues von mentions, although the time we sued Daimler-Chrysler I really wanted to do it in Detroit. I got overruled on that one, though.

"Anyway, this post was obviously tongue-in-cheek -- although, admittedly, I'm opposed to Edward's economic popularism. Economic popularism has tended to lead to poor (but well-meaning!) policy and natavism in the past; the one time that it arguably worked (FDR's New Deal), it actually failed on the economic level (indeed, the New Deal probably worsened the Great Depression)."

"Popularism"? Um, von, that isn't a word. I'm thinking maybe you mean "populism."

Unless you mean Popularism:

popolarismo) is a political doctrine conceived by Don Luigi Sturzo as a middle way between Socialism and Liberalism and opposed to Fascism because of its stress on Democracy. It was the basis for the Italian People's Party (Italian: Partito Popolare Italiano) and, after World War II, contributed in the founding of European Christian Democracy.
But I'm guessing that that's not what you mean.

Also, "nativism," not "natavism."

"(indeed, the New Deal probably worsened the Great Depression"

Well, now we know whose theology you're buying into: extreme conservativism mythology.

"Since we're still in the period when candidates declare themselves for the primary,"

Small note: not all states have primaries; although more and more have moved to that system in recent years, some still just have caucuses.

What Gary said (again):

"indeed, the New Deal probably worsened the Great Depression"

??!!

Cites?

-- And another thing: I keep hearing Edwards described, in the media, as a populist, but I'm never sure what accounts for this, other than the fact that Edwards is concerned about poverty. What do you mean by this term, and what leads you to think that Edwards is a populist, in whatever sense you have in mind?

"it actually failed on the economic level (indeed, the New Deal probably worsened the Great Depression)."

Considering that annual growth from 1933-1941 *averaged* 8%, better than any GOP president has ever managed in any particular year (even Saint Ronald), you're going to have to back that statement up with some substantive analysis, Von.

USA: and that's considering "the new deal" to mean its economic policy construed to mean jobs creation and fiscal policy, which is how I imagine von meant it. Certainly if we include all of FDR's economic policy, including things like creation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, von's case gets even harder to make.

(In possible addition to hilzoy) has "populist" become irremediably tainted by its unsavoury historical connotations?

I'm assuming that von is discussing the 1937 depression, which essentially ended the New Deal. Unfortunately, that overlooks the time from 1933-1937 and the effect of the New Deal on pulling the US out of the Great Depression.

von,

I withdraw any criticism implied of you personally, but I do feel strongly about the point I tried to make. There are frivolous cases, but they can be created by unreasonable defendants as well as plaintiffs. I'm not a lawyer, but I've been there, most recently to the tune of hefty legal fees for a slam-dunk that the defendants simply conceded, but only after I filed suit, previous corrspondence from me and then my lawyer having failed to get them to fulfill what a child could see was their obligation. So slams directed only at plaintiffs don't sit well.

The experiences with insurance of some people I know in New Orleans only reinforces my attitude.

von: not to pile on, but: is it your contention that FDR was a nativist? If so, why? If not, then isn't 'economic populism' just synonymous with 'thinking we should try to do something about poverty'? And if that's what you meant, then shouldn't we add to the success column such programs as Social Security and Medicare?

"Indeed, the New Deal probably worsened the Great Depression.

??!!

Cites?"

Milton Friedman, probably. I think he wrote that sentence one night after his his job as an economic factotum at whatever Federal agency he worked for, a job which he admitted guaranteed his survival. He didn't admit it though until PBS picked up his show in the 1980s. Then it was too late. He was more famous than John Kenneth Galbraith.

Other truisms. The Hoover Dam worsened crop production in California's Central Valley. If the Interstate Highway System hadn't been built by Eisenhower, we wouldn't have to plow it in the wintertime. Mr Gower in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" was a natural drunkard and n'er-do-well who should never have received that money from the Savings and Loan because he would have gone out and bought a Cadillac and some bling. Malcolm Forbes Sr. would have been strangled in his bed and eaten by guys who were bored by digging government holes and filling them and would have preferred being entrepreneurs.

I can't think of what else.

Well, guillotines would have some symbolic value, but crucifixion and impalement would offend my historical materialsm.

As far as FDR and the New Deal go, I am beginning to agree. FDR saved capitalism, the bastard. Spent a few hours last night studying on Huey Long.

Hm... in an adversarial system both sides fight fiercely, taking maximum advantage of whatever means are available.

How odd.

"I can't think of what else."

Try: you can't successfully fight poverty; only liberals think so, and they're wrong.

We could try asking Andrew nicely about this, but then he might feel ganged up on. I don't know if Von buys into it, but it's usually part of the same package.

Hm... in an adversarial system both sides fight fiercely, taking maximum advantage of whatever means are available.

One means is, of course, using political power to rewrite the rules of the system to your advantage. For example, if it's abusive for every class action to be filed in Madison County, write the venue rules so that it's not permissible. (Of course, the existing rules already restrict you from filing your case wherever the heck you feel like.)

And part of the political process is convincing people that hey, there's a big unfairness in the system, vote Republican so we can pass restrictions on all these frivolous lawsuits! Which is also fair, although perhaps I stand alone in my naive insistence that you shouldn't lie. But here at ObWi, we're not passing any laws or changing the minds of any voters, and I don't see any reason for von to paint the plaintiffs' bar with such an absurdly broad brush.

As I've discussed above, everything you can say about plaintiffs you can also say about defendants, sometimes in spades.

Re: Milton & the New Deal -- it wasn't just a footnote. &, more imporantly, there's no evidence that the New Deal had any effect on bringing the US out of the Great Depression. Indeed, by some fundamental measures (health, access to food, etc.), the depression worsened during the New Deal -- even before the recession of 1937 (which effectively ended many New Deal policies due to the fact that they didn't seem to be working).

The problem that we have is that everyone assumes that the New Deal ended the great depression because the unemployment rate dropped (for a time) due to the rise in government employment. But the actual economic fundamentals of the country remained impressively weak; IIRC, there was something like 25% deflation during the mid-1930s while the New Deal was in full swing, a sign of a rapidly contracting economy. Then, again, was the nasty recesiion of '37, which, of course, shouldn't have happened (or shouldn't have been so nasty) had the New Deal been ending the depression as advertised.

Anyone want to provide evidence that the New Deal actually ended the Great Depression? Anyone know of any "evidence" of causation? FYI - a correlation between fact that the New Deal started in 1933 and, some ten years and a World War later, the Great Depression finally ended, is not evidence of causation.

Yet when plaintiffs' lawyers exercise their right to choose a favorable venue, it's an example of near-total-scamdom!

I'm sorry, but filing nationwide class action after nationwide class action before super-friendly judges in state court in Madison County, Illinois, based on esoteric theories like "diminished value" wherein no class plaintiff really gets anything (but the class lawyers make out swell, of course) is bordering on near-total-scamdom -- even if it was sometimes successful.

I will leave the typographical error in "natavist" to stand as a monument to typographical errors everywhere. There. I've done my good deed for the day.

I'm sorry, but filing nationwide class action after nationwide class action before super-friendly judges in state court in Madison County, Illinois, based on esoteric theories like "diminished value" wherein no class plaintiff really gets anything (but the class lawyers make out swell, of course) is bordering on near-total-scamdom -- even if it was sometimes successful.

I'm sorry, but getting one accounting firm after another dismissed from securities class actions based upon absurd precedent which declares, as a matter of law, that "no accountant would ever risk his good name for the fees of a single client" is a scam in its own right.

I could go tit-for-tat with you all day, because - as ral aptly observed above - both sides seek to get whatever procedural advantage they can out of the system, and that's the way it works.

Show me the defendant or defense lawyer who agrees to voluntarily surrender a procedural advantage because it wouldn't be fair to the poor plaintiff. Show me the defense lawyer who refuses to advance a legal argument which gets accepted by the courts because, even though it would get their client out of the case, it strikes them as logically dubious. Show me the Easter Bunny while you're at it.

The proposition that there is something uniquely sleazy about the practices of plaintiffs' lawyers simply isn't borne out in reality. And von still hasn't explained his bizarre asterisked footnote, where he distinguishes between "plaintiffs' lawyers" and "trial lawyers" in one breath only to conflate them in the very next breath. Please, let's at least be clear about whom we are supposed to hate.

"; IIRC, there was something like 25% deflation during the mid-1930s while the New Deal was in full swing, a sign of a rapidly contracting economy."

You are seriously wrong: you're getting confused with deflation under Hoover. Inflation rates as follows under FDR, pre-war:

1933 -5.1% (negative in first half of year, positive in second half)
1934 3.5%
1935 2.6%
1936 1.0%
1937 3.7%
1938 -2.0%
1939 -1.3%
1940 0.7%
1941 5.1%

Even if you include 1933 (and I wouldn't), that's nowhere near 25% deflation.

"some ten years and a World War later, the Great Depression finally ended, is not evidence of causation."

Real GDP was at its pre-1929 levels by the end of 1936. Good enough for you?

Causation?

None claimed.

I, like Milton Friedman, John Kenneth Galbraith, Larry Kudlow, and the rest of the professional economists can't PROVE causation for anything. That doesn't cause us to stop claiming it.

There is evidence that World War II spending soaked up excess manpower, one way or the other, and poured liquidity into the economy. Which is causation for me declaring "Hooray for Hitler and Tojo!", but frankly I'd prefer the more unproductive work of digging and filling holes and printing money.

One other thing I can't prove is what would have happened if the government had done nothing, zilch, from 1930 on. If FDR had announced the "No Deal" in 1932, I can't prove that Malcolm Forbes Sr. would not been dragged from his bed and eaten by ravenous unemployed people, including Milton Friedman, who, to his credit, would have been against such a measure on principle, but a guy has to eat.

I also can't prove that spending on the Iraq War has not contributed to the recovery from the Clinton Depression, which started in 1993 when he raised taxes. If 9/11 hadn't happened we obviously would still be mired in that debacle. Osama is a monetary expansionist.

;) Happy New Year.

I thought Friedman argued that it was mistakes by the Federal Reserve that changed a more-or-less normal downturn into the Great Depression.

While there is room for discussion as to the total effect of the New Deal, this notion that it actually worsened the situation is, I think, a recent development whose provenance is unknown to me.

It's not really a historical or economic argument; it's an assertion of faith that efforts to help anyone but the wealthiest, and to hep them in anything but the gratification of their whims, is bound to fail. As with arguments against universal health care, involves a lot of cherry-picking of data and a willful blindness to overall consequences, as well as to how people as both thinking and feeling beings perceive their situation. Someone - Jim Henley, I think - described Eugene Volokh's style of argumentation as one where, after due consideration and perhaps a touch of elegant agonizing, the outcome was always that the Leader should get his way. Arguments about the evils of the New Deal inevitably end up following a similar structure as they march toward a preordained conclusion which will be presented as though it's a surprise.

The crucial feature of the literature on this kind of argument is that it never evolves. If a point is ever refuted, it lays fallow for a while and then resurfaces unchanged a year or a decade later. Nothing's ever abandoned, only temporarily denied while it's inconvenient. This contrasts sharply wtih the honest literature in history, economics, and other fields that genuinely does respond to new information and analysis. There are conservative writers just as much as liberal, libertarian and others who have learned and grown in their understanding, but they aren't welcome in the halls of power either.

If a point is ever refuted, it lays fallow for a while and then resurfaces unchanged a year or a decade later.

You've just summed up the GOP and the RW en toto.

Yeah, and Toto's a good dog who deserves better.

Bernard:

"I thought Friedman argued it was mistakes by the Federal Reserve that changed a more-or-less normal downturn into the Great Depression."

Indeed he did. He also said that if appointed Federal Reserve Chairman by Ronald Reagan he would immediately abolish the Federal Reserve. He would then run the Nation's money supply on the same basis as George W. Bush runs the war in Iraq, which is to say that mistakes are not possible and no mistakes would ever be made again, as least not on his watch.

The problem is government. Before there was government there were no mistakes. I mean, everyone had their own mistakes and lived with them without interfering with everybody else's mistakes.

Pretty soon, after government was founded, everyone wanted everyone else's mistakes. They were no longer satisfied with their own mistakes.

I would continue in this satirical vein, but I'm afraid Dr. Pangloss would show up and say that I've spoken the absolute truth. Which would be a mistake. I blame the government for that.

Von

In your work as a defense attorney, have you ever said to a client "I strongly believe you are liable and if you are going to continue to pursue meritless defenses, I am not going to represent you anymore."?

If so, good for you.

If not, why not? It seems there are really only three possible answers 1) you never represented a client with liability (again, good for you), 2) you denied liability to use it as a bargaining chip in settlement negotiations or 3) you represented clients without regard to whether their defenses had merit.

Number 3 would make you amoral (though perhaps a decent lawyer. Number 2 would mean that you worked to protect your client's interests within the bounds of the law.

All that said, when an attorney files a class action suit he or she believes that they can either win at trial or can present enough liability risk that they will force a settlement. If they file a cases otherwise, they will go out of business pretty soon.

So, anyway you slice it, those evil trial lawyers either engaged in conduct that is no different than options 1-3 listed for your conduct: they either truly believe the claims are just, or that they will present a bargaining chip because of liability risk. If they do it purely from an amoral perspective without regard to liability they, unlike defense attorneys like yourself, will go out of business because there is no money to be made pursuing cases where there is absolutely no liability.

In my brief career as an attorney (I only practiced for a year before I realized it was the biggest mistake of my life and the following incident was the straw that broke the camel's back for me) I worked as an Assistant Regional Counsel for US EPA in Atlanta. I was assigned to a huge Superfund site (a $40 million cleanup) that was being cleaned up by a group of potentially responsible parties (PRPs) performing under a consent order made up of dozen or so large corporations who had contributed significant amounts waste to the site. They were represented by the largest law firm in Atlanta and the lead attorney on the case was its top environmental attorney (and a senior partner). I'm sure that if any of you are attorneys in Atlanta you know exactly who I am talking about.

We had a conference with the PRPs to discuss the progress of the cleanup. The meeting went poorly from the get go. The condescending bastard looked at me, a lowly GS-11 attorney who couldn't even get an interview at his white-stocking firm, and dismissed as just another stupid insignificant nothing. He started assailing the agency for trying to reach a settlement with de mimimus contributors to the site (of which there were well over a thousand). He was didn't want us to settle with them because that would frustrate his efforts to force them to join the cleanup. What was obvious to me was that he really didn't care about actually getting money for his clients but for the huge amount of billable hours that generating threatening letters and chasing down every Mom and Pop business that had sent waste to the site was creating for his law firm.

If he really wanted to get the best deal for his clients, there were still some very deep pockets and low-hanging fruit out there who would have joined the cleanup immediately and contributed significantly. Yet he chose to pursue PRPs who were in many cases incapable of providing any significant resources and probably weren't worth pursuing at all (I'm sure the dollars recovered from them wouldn't even covered the legal fees involved in getting them on board).

It was at that point I decided that the defendant's bar didn't even care about was best for their client. All they are interested in was maximizing their billable hours.

There've been a number of really good comments, properly ripping Von a good one for his viewpoints on 'trial lawyers' - excuse me, 'lawyers who represent poor and powerless schmucks against their betters' might be a better phrasing.

I'd like to add that anybody who can look at the GNP growth/shrinkage rates during the 1930's and conclude that the New Deal lengthened/worsened the Great Depression is using causal arguments that aren't in common use. The US economy shrunk, and shrunk drastically under Hoover, far worse and far longer than a normal recession. The 'classical liberal' methods failed. Under FRD, the economy grew very fast, in contradiction to not only the pre-dictions, but also the post-dictions of FDR's critics. Not only did they fail to predict the future, but they've spent the past 60-odd years not able to correctly predict the past (so to speak).

John Thullen,

In fairness to Friedman, his point was that he believed the Federal Reserve would work perfectly well if it followed a very simple mechanical rule. He did not think that it was necessary for it to form delicate judgements about the state of the economy.

So I don't think his opinion about this ought to be characterized as "anti-government." Rather he felt that what should be a simple process was made unduly complicated and error-prone by Federal Reserve procedures.

I thought Friedman argued that it was mistakes by the Federal Reserve that changed a more-or-less normal downturn into the Great Depression.

That, and anti-Semitism. (There's a theory that the Depression would have been lessened if a crucial loan had been made to the Bank of America, at the time w/ a Jewish owner.)

Arguments about the evils of the New Deal inevitably end up following a similar structure as they march toward a preordained conclusion which will be presented as though it's a surprise.

I think that, if you read what I wrote, you'll find that I did not say that the New Deal was "evil." I simply stated that it probably worsened the Depression -- while acknowledging that the alternatives were far worse.

You are seriously wrong: you're getting confused with deflation under Hoover. Inflation rates as follows under FDR, pre-war:

Certainly possible -- note the "IIRC."

The US economy shrunk, and shrunk drastically under Hoover, far worse and far longer than a normal recession. The 'classical liberal' methods failed.

Actually, no. That was a central point of Friedman's critique.

Freder, don't let your experience with one lawyer cloud your opinions of all.

There've been a number of really good comments, properly ripping Von a good one for his viewpoints on 'trial lawyers' - excuse me, 'lawyers who represent poor and powerless schmucks against their betters' might be a better phrasing.

Umm, no. Trial lawyers represent themselves.

von: I think that, if you read what I wrote, you'll find that I did not say that the New Deal was "evil." I simply stated that it probably worsened the Depression -- while acknowledging that the alternatives were far worse.

I'm confused by your choice of words here. Wouldn't "worsened" imply that a better outcome was possible?

John Edwards was representing himself, not the little girl whose innards were sucked out of her by the pool pump?

Umm, no. Trial lawyers represent themselves.

Von, you're far too smart and knowledgeable not to have a better response than cheap smears of this sort.

Defense lawyers are out for themselves, most people in society are out for themselves, why, our entire society is DESIGNED around the assumption that everyone benefits when people are out for themselves... yet you've still completely failed to justify why plaintiffs' lawyers are uniquely sleazy. I know you have more to say than you've said here.

Yeah, what a raw deal that Vincent Bugliosi got for the people of California, managing to convict all the Manson defendants. If only he hadn't been looking out for himself.

Hilzoy:

You really need to re-read the post. I didn't call FDR a nativist. I said economic populism tends to lead to nativism.

Steve:

You're right that they're cheap shots; nor do I believe that the defense bar is uniquely ethical. The more intelligent critique would be to point out the inherent conflicts of interest between the interests of the attorney and the class in most class actions, and the sometimes over-emotional appeals in the big-guy-v-little-guy scenario -- which, in my personal experience, has led to injustices.

That's all I have time to say on the subject at this time, though.

more imporantly, there's no evidence that the New Deal had any effect on bringing the US out of the Great Depression.

von,

There is a difference between saying "the New Deal did not bring the US out of the Great Depression," and "the New Deal made the Great Depression worse." It seems to me that you are using arguments for the first claim, a reasonable one, to support the second.

Further, taking a broader view, and relying on your post, I could argue that the New Deal clearly did end the Depression. You claim that it held off worse alternatives. Well, if it did that long enough for the Depression to end then maybe it does get credit, just the defensive unit of a football team gets credit for winning a game by preventing the opponents from scoring and making things worse.

So if the only politically viable possibilities were the New Deal or Communism then we'd have to say the New Deal worked wonders. Indeed, isn't this the essence of the argument that the New Deal saved capitalism from itself? And if that's so then shouldn't it be celebrated by capitalists like you and me?

Why is anyone even criticising John Edwards because he is a Trial Lawyer?

Criticise John Edwards for the cases John Edwards took. Or are all trial lawyers alike to you, Von?

Wow, how did I miss this thread? Hmm, I'm skeptical to bring in work directly so I'll generalize.

I have at some point in my career, spent almost 2 years dealing with various Plaintiff's attorneys regarding a claim in which my side could prove that the material which they blamed for damages was not now and had never been in our product. In some of the above mentioned venues, the judges would not allow Motions for Summary Judgment based on the fact that we absolutely definitely did not have the alledged material in our product until the week before trial. This caused us to rack up more than a million dollars in completely unnecessary defense fees spread across the many cases in the many jurisdictions.

The problem that I see is that so long as the plaintiff's bar see A legitimate target somewhere, it costs them almost nothing extra to sue everyone else anywhere near the target. The marginal cost of adding these defendants is in the hundreds of dollars. The cost to the defendants is in the tens of thousands for each suit. Plaintiffs know this, and will 'settle' for somewhat less than the cost of having it proven that the defendant has nothing to do with the problem. These funds are used against the legitimate target defendant.

Almost always the 'case' is legitimate against someone in the action. The costly problem is that it isn't legitimate against MOST defendants in the action.

This was commented on above, but:

I think that, if you read what I wrote, you'll find that I did not say that the New Deal was "evil." I simply stated that it probably worsened the Depression -- while acknowledging that the alternatives were far worse.

Errrr... I don't think that means what you think it means.

Another issue to keep in mind regarding the New Deal and the Depression is that, while the New Deal may not have brought an immediate recovery, several of the New Deal policies were very important in preventing future depressions. For example, one big contributing cause of the Depression was the instability of the banking and financial system, which was directly and effectively remedied by several New Deal policies (securities market regulation, deposit insurance, etc.).

The problem that I see is that so long as the plaintiff's bar see A legitimate target somewhere, it costs them almost nothing extra to sue everyone else anywhere near the target.

This is a very good point, SH. Our system doesn't do much to disincentivize this type of behavior. In some respects, due to statutes of limitations and the like, we actually punish plaintiffs who act responsibly and don't sue new defendants until they know they have a valid claim.

Plaintiffs sometimes have little choice, as the only way to get discovery and identify the parties truly responsible for their injury is to sue everyone and sort it out later. If you're a victim of medical malpractice, you're going to sue the hospital, the doctors, the nurses, the attending physicians, etc., even if you have no clue which of them left that surgical instrument in your body. But our system doesn't do enough to encourage the plaintiff, once he knows who did what, to let the innocent defendants off the hook. Instead it's like "you're here anyway, why don't you chip in a little something."

I bet if we put our heads together we could figure out some good improvements to the system in this regard.

For example, one big contributing cause of the Depression was the instability of the banking and financial system, which was directly and effectively remedied by several New Deal policies (securities market regulation, deposit insurance, etc.).

This, I grant you.

Point regarding FDR "did not improve" v. "worsened" GD a good one, although I hope to have a rejoinder at some point.

In some of the above mentioned venues, the judges would not allow Motions for Summary Judgment ... until the week before trial....The problem that I see is that so long as the plaintiff's bar

Sounds like a problem with the judges, not with the plaintiffs' bar members, who, as Steve points out, often have to sue many people just to find the one who is in fact responsible. And based on my experience as a judicial clerk, the problem with the judges is simply that they're swamped. They don't decide motions quickly or entertain them early because they have no time. The solution, of course, is to increase the number of judges -- a much smaller social expense than the money wasted on the bills paid to von and his cohorts and their adversaries. But that would increase the size of government, so I'm sure von won't agree with it. Much better to waste lots of money and blame the other lawyers.

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