September 1, 2017

Law School Professors Against Common Sense

Paying the price for breakdown of the country's bourgeois culture by Amy Wax & Larry Alexander

The country’s bourgeois culture....laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These basic cultural precepts reigned from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. They could be followed by people of all backgrounds and abilities, especially when backed up by almost universal endorsement. Adherence was a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains, and social coherence of that period.

Did everyone abide by those precepts? Of course not. There are always rebels — and hypocrites, those who publicly endorse the norms but transgress them. But as the saying goes, hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue. Even the deviants rarely disavowed or openly disparaged the prevailing expectations.

Was everything perfect during the period of bourgeois cultural hegemony? Of course not....

All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy. ....

Would the re-embrace of bourgeois norms by the ordinary Americans who have abandoned them significantly reduce society’s pathologies? There is every reason to believe so. Among those who currently follow the old precepts, regardless of their level of education or affluence, the homicide rate is tiny, opioid addiction is rare, and poverty rates are low. Those who live by the simple rules that most people used to accept may not end up rich or hold elite jobs, but their lives will go far better than they do now. All schools and neighborhoods would be much safer and more pleasant. More students from all walks of life would be educated for constructive employment and democratic participation.

Amy Wax is the Robert Mundheim professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Larry Alexander is the Warren distinguished professor at the University of San Diego School of Law.

For writing this article Penn Law School Professors Sign Open Letter Condemning Amy Wax
Heather MacDonald writes:

Nearly half the professors at the University of Pennsylvania law school have published an open letter condemning their colleague Amy Wax for her by now (in)famous op-ed on bourgeois values. The result? The quality of reasoned debate at the University of Pennsylvania has dramatically worsened, even below the already abysmal standards set by the graduate student and alumni screeds which preceded this latest open letter....

Do the authors rebut these arguments? Do they offer counterevidence? No. Apparently the thesis of Wax’s op-ed is so patently beyond the pale that it is enough for the signatories to assert: “We categorically reject Wax’s claims.” In the absence of any attempt at refutation, that is simply a case of virtue signaling.
Posted by Jill Fallon at September 1, 2017 10:57 AM | Permalink