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Poor liberal thinking

Every now and then I wonder why I get into arguments over on liberal blogs. It rarely ends well, and usually the twits I'm arguing against end up changing the terms of the argument, deleting and banning me, or just keep changing the subject.

The first happened over here, but I ended up continuing the discussion with a couple of the commenters after the host proved once again what a schmuck he is. THAT talk stayed civil, and it ranged over a variety of topics, including taxation and poverty.

And that reminded me of this George Will column, in which he said something so simple, so profound, and so true that it is guaranteed to drive most liberals absolutely berserk:

"...three not-at-all recondite rules for avoiding poverty: Graduate from high school, don't have a baby until you are married, don't marry while you are a teenager. Among people who obey those rules, poverty is minimal."

Other commentators have added a fourth rule: don't get hooked on alcohol or drugs.

One of the big arguing points among liberals is "don't blame poor people for being poor," and I agree. But those four simple rules are not that difficult to follow. In fact, it pretty much takes acts of will to violate all four of them.

1) Graduate from high school. School attendance is mandatory until the age of 16, and free. Further, the law encourages kids to stay in school -- our labor laws are designed to encourage kids to stay in school and out of the work force until they are 18.

2) Don't have a baby out of wedlock. Again, this is one you gotta work at to violate. It's been about 2000 years since anyone just "woke up pregnant" -- itt's pretty well established what sorts of things lead to pregnancy, and the vast majority of pregnant women did those things willingly. Yes, there are exceptions, but those are very rare exceptions.

3) Don't get married as a teenager. This is an expansion of the above one. But it also reminds people that marriage is supposed to be forever, and that's a hell of a commitment to make before one is 20 years old. Even miliatary enlistments are only for a couple of years, and nobody in their right mind is gonna give a 20-year mortgage to a 19-year-old. Take a couple of years as an adult to establish yourself, find out just who and what you are, before making a lifetime commitment.

4) Don't get hooked on alcohol or drugs. Again, those are active choices. Nobody wakes up an alcoholic or a junkie; it takes a bit of work and effort to develop an addiction. In fact, teenagers have to violate the law to even get their hands on it, let alone regularly enough to develop a dependency.

Now, this is not a formula guaranteed for success. Even Will says that "poverty is minimal," acknowledging that it is there.

I should know. I'm a living example.

I followed all those rules without realizing it at the time. And I was born with some remarkable gifts and advantages. I've had numerous opportunities throughout my life, and I've let most of them pass me by. So I find myself now with some hefty debts, living paycheck to paycheck.

But I don't blame anyone but myself. I can look at precise moments in my life when I had a chance to do better, and for various and sundry reasons (the biggest being sheer laziness) they slipped through my fingers.

Every now and then, though, I grab one at the very last moment. One such case was my dithering and procrastinating when Kevin picked me as one of his "guest bloggers" back in April 2004. I hemmed and hawed at the time, wondering if I could find enough material to come up with a couple of pieces a week. A year and a half and over a thousand postings later, I find I can't imagine my life without Wizbang -- and the readers who make it all worthwhile. I'm still a "nobody from nowhere with a nothing job and no life," but I'm also a part of the #10 blog in the Ecosystem, only six points behind the Drudge Report (who, in my opinion, doesn't count as a "blog") and 26 behind the legendary Hugh Hewitt.

So, no, I don't "blame" poor people for being poor. But I don't believe in protecting people from the consequences of their bad decisions. One of the most fundamental rights has to be the right to be wrong -- and depriving people of the right to make mistakes is a grave injustice.

(Hmm... I think I could come up with a dozen or so paragraphs on "the right to be wrong," but this one is getting long enough already. I'll save that one for another time.)


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Poor liberal thinking:

» Chris Abraham linked with How to Not Fail in Life

» Sortapundit linked with F*ck You, Chuckles. Get a Job

» Reaganites Unite! linked with Peggy Noonan Slaps Bush for Liberal Lurch!

» CaptainNormal.org linked with A Reasonable Question **** UPDATED ****

» Acorns from an Okie linked with The Fifth Rule?

Comments (54)

It's the Wack-A-Mole libera... (Below threshold)

It's the Wack-A-Mole liberal way of thinking.

Add one more: stay out of j... (Below threshold)

Add one more: stay out of jail.

A criminal record increases your chances of living in poverty by a factor of 10.

And if you are female and don't have children until you are 25+ and married, the probability approaches zero.

Poverty is a choice, not a fate.

I don't think I can make a ... (Below threshold)

I don't think I can make a blanket statement blaming the poor for being poor, but based on some of the "chronically" poor where I grew up, bad choices are to blame for remaining poor for several generations. I don't think the poor necessarily choose to be poor initially, but I think a large percentage of the poor in this day in age choose to remain poor because it's easier than working their way out of poverty.

"...and nobody in their rig... (Below threshold)

"...and nobody in their right mind is gonna give a 20-year mortgage to a 19-year-old"

You're right. Mine was a 30-year note.

Jay, where do you come up with this stuff?

Mark,I will wait t... (Below threshold)


I will wait to call you a liar until after you give details on how a 19-year-old gets approved for a mortgage.

Short of being a trustfund baby, no bank I ever worked for would EVER extend a note to a 19 y/o, unless you lived in Miami and were a drug dealer (sorry, inside joke}.

"Poverty is a choice, not a... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

"Poverty is a choice, not a fate."

This is a minor quibble, for sure, but I think it's inaccurate to say that poverty is a choice; it could be better and more hopefully stated by simply saying "Poverty is not a fate." I don't believe any one chooses to be poor; perhaps they are born into poverty or a third world country and that is not a choice. By that same line of reasoniong, no one chooses to be rich at birth, either.

Yes, by choice, be they poor choices or laziness or whatever, people can remain poor, so I really agree with your statement in that respect, Kobeclan. And I'm pretty sure that's what you mean. I just think some people will miscontrue the larger meaning of your statement, even though it's pretty much spot on!

LOL. I think Mark was, ahem... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

LOL. I think Mark was, ahem, born into riches. But not by choice, more by fate.

KC: I agree. I'd like to meet his, er, bank loan officer.

Peter F.,Appreciat... (Below threshold)

Peter F.,

Appreciate your point.

Let's narrow my statement to say that no American need live in poverty. Someone born into poverty in a country like Brazil will probably die poor through no fault of their own. Ditto countless other countries.

Millions of Americans, including myself, have proven that "The American Dream" is alive and well. In my case, my immigrant grandparents wanted their children to have a better life than they, and my parents also wanted their children (me include) to have a better life.

Its no coincidence that children with intact nuclear families have a much lower rate of poverty than children born into single parent families.

Lets add a 6th rule to avoid poverty, be born to parents who are married.

There are plenty of banks i... (Below threshold)

There are plenty of banks in the UK who will give a mortgage to a 19 yr old, as long as he's in FT employment & has been for more than a year. It's a win win situation for the bank, they either get paid every month, or they forclose & get a stash of cash through increased equity. Of course UK house prices have increased exponentially for decades.

I think there are different types of "poor". The non-working classes do tend to piss me off - I came from there & I got out, so I get to be completely intolerant. But the ones that work & can not "get out" of their rut for a number of good reasons make me angry with society.

Having said that, I followed all your rules scruplously & I'm still officially below the poverty line, although actually I do not class myself as poor - I know what that word really means.

Mark,Let's play De... (Below threshold)


Let's play Devil's Advocate here for a moment and assume that a bank, of sound mind and reason, did give you a 30-year note before your 20's.

Do you think that's the norm or the exception?

If you believe it's the latter, then do try a little harder to debunk Jay Tea's poins as opposed to trying to strawman his argument.

Hmmmm.1. "It's bee... (Below threshold)


1. "It's been about 2000 years since anyone just "woke up pregnant""

Actually this is incorrect. About a decade ago an Australian girl became pregnant from swimming in a pond. When she discovered she was pregnant her parents went apeshit, so she proved that she was still a virgin. *shrug* hey, it was in a newspaper. YMMV.

Otherwise, I completely agree. I came from a pretty poor immigrant background and did pretty well for myself. All it took was hard work, and working hard.

KobeC:It's boring ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:


It's boring to be in total agreement with someone, but in this case I am.

I think the "poor" in the U.S. really need to take a long, hard look at what it truly means to be poor in other parts of the world. And while I can offer no immediate statistics or numbers to back up my statement, the U.S. "poor" would be consider extraordinarily wealthy in almost any other part of the world, with the obvious exclusions of Europe, parts of Asia and perhaps South America.

I believe in helping the poor, just not to the point to where it promotes a blithe sense of entitlement among the poor ("gimme this, gimme that") or an excuse for not helping oneself. And, sadly, that is too often the case in this country.

KobeClan, Peter F., etc.</p... (Below threshold)

KobeClan, Peter F., etc.

In the late seventies, I knew many hard-working teenagers in Alaska who obtained mortgages from banks to purchase real estate. Many were like me, and none of us were "born into money." It wasn't hard back then.

I worked three jobs simultaneously in High School and amassed savings that would make me proud even today. Then, by mid-summer of my 19th year, I had worked nearly three seasons as a commercial fisherman in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. I, and many of my friends, were earning more than $50,000 each summer during college. This was 1979. We were purchasing real estate with the leftovers from our sports car and ski boat budgets.

Those opportunities are still available to anyone who is willing to make sacrifices and work their asses off. I was able to pay for college and law school, and live comfortably throughout, by rolling up my sleeves and sweating for long hours. I wish more people understood the value of hard work.

The only issue I take is wi... (Below threshold)

The only issue I take is with rule #1: Graduate from High School - my concern is not with the rule really, its a great rule; however, as its used here, it seems to somehow support the contention that poverty is easily escapable. But, why then are droupout rates so high in impoverished areas vs wealthier areas? Why is there an achievement gap? Surely these disparaties are due to something more than "simple choices."
My point being: I don't think the choice a poor person makes in graduating high school is always the same as the choice a wealther student makes.
So then we should ask the questions that follow: why is it the choice to graduate high school more difficult in the imporverished areas? Is it becuase of the demands of working at a younger age? Is it family structure? Is it the prevalence of crime?
These questions would do more to help us understand why people choose not to graduate, and thus help us understand why people don't follow rule #1 - so we can look to make a change.

To simply margininalize the issue to a matter of personal choice jusitifies inaction - and in a way constitutes a moral claim about the people in question, which is most likely insupportable.

Brandon,I'm not cr... (Below threshold)


I'm not criticizing his point, as much as I'm hinting that his writing could be tightened up a little. A good crisp argument would not be riddled with distracting, unnecessary statements that don't hold up to scrutiny. He erodes his own credibility.

I can teach anyone how t... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

I can teach anyone how to make a million dollars a year. All I need is a willing student and about 29 million in seed money, given the current money market rate. Danged if some people don't start out with the needed seed money while others have to figure out how to make a living the hard way.

Nothing is 100% dealing with people, so all we can talk about is tendencies and probabilities, but parents teach their kids by example as much as they do by what they say, and kids learn by emulating their parents. Children generally achieve the same economic status as their parents because of the examples their parents set and because of the advantages or baggage parents give their kids.

We see from the Bible that a wealth person can no more give away their wealth than a poor person can gain wealth. It does happen, but it's the exception. In the end a poor person is no more responsible for their economic status than a middle class or wealthy person is for their economic status. That's not easy for a middle class or wealthy person to accept, but that's because of how you were raised; you simply have no excuse to fail.

No, I'm not a liberal, but just blaming the poor for being poor is myopic. Poor people not only need opportunity they need mentoring while they are young in order to instill in them values their parents don't have. We thought free public education was enough, but liberals have so weekend that institution with their short-term feel-good politics that it's no longer effective.

Why is there an achievem... (Below threshold)

Why is there an achievement gap? Surely these disparaties are due to something more than "simple choices."

It's those complex choices that do supposedly poor people in. There never seems to be any shortage of money in "poor" neighborhoods for drugs, booze, cars, guns, clothes, jewelry or anything most people consider unnecessary, the shortage only pops up when it's books, groceries, medicine, education, housing and taxes. Being poor may not be the result of making personal decisions, staying poor certainly is.

Brandon, again:Loo... (Below threshold)

Brandon, again:

Looking at the country as a whole, I accept that I was an exception. My experience was fairly common in Alaska at the time, and perhaps its difficult to shake my perception now--primarily because I lived it and it is a part of my life.

However, I must add that I attended law school in Los Angeles. During that period, I became freinds with many people who were a few years younger than me, and were prominent in USC's drama department. I also had freinds who played college and professional football. I also had freinds who were succesful musicians. Many of these personal friends made enough money through acting, music and sports that they were able to purchase real estate while still in their very early twenties, and while still attending undergraduate school.

Perhaps these people are exceptions, too. But my personal experiences through most of my life seem to be filled with those "exceptions."

Each of these "exceptions" come from lower middle-class families, by the way. The one thing they all have in common is hard work and a vision of success.

I read somewhere that the A... (Below threshold)

I read somewhere that the Australian girl proved she got pregnant from swimming in a pond by showing that her twat smelled like fish...

One quibble."Even ... (Below threshold)
Joel Franklin:

One quibble.

"Even military enlistments are only for a couple of years."

Military enlistments in the USA are for 8 years with no exceptions.

My father passed a piece of... (Below threshold)

My father passed a piece of financial wisdom to me and I have passed it on to my children. It worked in my Grandfather's generation, my Father's generation and its worked in my generation.

Spend less than you earn. Simple rule, huge impact. And before you accuse me of being a trust fund baby, my Grandfather was an immigrant to this country. He became a rural pastor with 10 kids. My father was the first to go to college other than semminary school. He had to go live with an aunt to finish high school because the rural Arkansas school had taught him everything they had. I got my first job deliverying papers when I was 9 and have worked at least summers every year since then.

Of course with my family background, not having a child out of wedlock, not marrying before you are ready to earn enough to support a family, getting as much education as you could afford and staying out of jail were just family values. They were such basic ideas that you didn't even question them any more than you would question breathing.

Mark:I think if I ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:


I think if I had the context of the time period and the situation behind your ability to buy a house, I would not have made such a flip comment. My apologies in that regard!

On the mortgage topic:<br /... (Below threshold)

On the mortgage topic:
If you are old enough to enter into a contract, you can get any mortgage you qualify for. So that means 18 in most states (In TX 16 if you are married!!) It is discriminatory for lenders to do otherwise.
Plenty of people who were born in the 80s are getting mortgages these days. I just did one for a 19 yr old in CA- he is in the mortgage business.
Otherwise, good post.

Peter F.:No Prob! ... (Below threshold)

Peter F.:

No Prob! But I wasn't sensible enough to purchase a house, it was a 4-plex rental property. Major headache to manage long distance from college or the Bering Sea. This, of course, tends to prove Jay's point. Although I had the means to get the loan, I was not quite disciplined or sensible enough to make the most of my situation. Shoulda woulda coulda.

Just to throw in my two cen... (Below threshold)

Just to throw in my two cents, my youngest brother just took out a mortgage on a little house here in the UK. He's 20, and he's only been in his current employment for about 6 months. It's not hard to get a mortgage, but I still think it's a stupid idea at that age. It's an easy way of arriving at poverty by the scenic route.

devan,Dropout rate... (Below threshold)


Dropout rates are low in poor areas because the children's parents didn't finish high school either. The single greatest predictor for success in school is the support level of the child's parents, and to a lesser extent the child's community. Things like class size, money spent per child, etc. have very little effect. Hence the liberal solution of throwing more money at the situation is shortsighted and pretty much useless.

The real solution, then, is twofold:
1. Motivate kids to care about school anyway.
2. Motivate parents to care about and activly participate in the schooling of their kids.

Neither of these solutions is at all easy to implement and any changes are, at best, going to make only incremental average improvements per generation. The second one especially is probably only going to come about as the effects from the first are felt.

It seems to me, though, that some good techniques of helping would be:

1. Increasing standards for children starting as young as kindergarden. Instead of poor kids getting farther and farther behind the rest of the country as they get older, we need to make sure that they start out on the right track.
2. Separate the troublemakers who don't care from the rest of the kids. Any kid who expresses the slightest bit of violence needs to be taken away from the other kids until they can deal with their problems. Yeah, it might not really be nice to treat them differently from the rest just because they have more problems, but is it any nicer to try and make the rest of the kids learn in an environment of fear?
3. Raise teacher salaries while raising teaching standards. Doing one without the other won't work. If you raise the salaries while reducing the violence, more teachers are going to be willing to teach in poor areas and to live up to the standards necessary to be good at it. And while we're at it, lets expressly tie salaries to performance. Why on earth do we expect teachers to be good at their job when they get no reward at all for doing so?

Of course, the NEA fights changes like this tooth and nail, so it seems poor kids are pretty much screwed when it comes to education

4) Don't get hooked on a... (Below threshold)

4) Don't get hooked on alcohol or drugs. Again, those are active choices. Nobody wakes up an alcoholic or a junkie; it takes a bit of work and effort to develop an addiction.

What if you're Irish?

Ebonics. That's the answer... (Below threshold)

Ebonics. That's the answer. Yep.

Oh, and high schools need to teach collection techniques for them teenage ho's.

Leopold: That was ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:


That was so damn funny I had to read your post to my co-workers. I really wish you could hear how hard you had all of us laughing! Thanks!


I could have managed my way out of a paper bag at 19, let alone manage property! You've got my admiration. (Hell, I still can't balance my checkbook properly. Thank God I have a wife with greater—far greater, really—mathimatical abilities than myself!)

I teach in a Title I school... (Below threshold)

I teach in a Title I school and the reason my students do not perform well is due to their home situations. If your parent or guardian didn't finish school, then they probably hold no value in an education. There is no one to help the students or make them do homework, so it simply doesn't get done. No one at home cares what grades were on their report cards, so they don't even show them to their parents. No one cares so they don't care.

A few years ago when I was teaching math, I had one student tell me he wasn't going work but that he would collect a $300 a month check just like his uncle. I tried show him how little money that was, but sixth graders don't get it. And unfortunately, you just can't undo that lack of work ethic in 50 minutes a day.

Mark is the same arrogant a... (Below threshold)

Mark is the same arrogant asshole lawyer that thinks only a court of law (i.e., lawyers) can tell us peons what the U.S. Constitution means. Specifically the 2nd amendment. Because, you know, he went to law school to learn hisself some big words so he can tell us ignorant folk how stupid we are. You must be very proud of yourself Mark. I mean, being a productive member of society and all...

But I don't belie... (Below threshold)
But I don't believe in protecting people from the consequences of their bad decisions.

This is the difference between liberals and conservatives in a nutshell. Thanks Jay, for expressing it so succinctly.

Gee, Ed, that was nice.... (Below threshold)

Gee, Ed, that was nice.

Ya know, I tend to trust physicians to know more about medicine than I. Engineers tend to know more about physics than I. I trust accountants to do a better job of handling my taxes. Ed, I'd probably rather trust you to dig out my septic tank instead of tackling it myself (if you're bonded). But if you think non-lawyers are as qualified to interpret constitutional law as lawyers, you're out of your fucking mind.

Joel Franklin: Military ... (Below threshold)

Joel Franklin: Military enlistments in the USA are for 8 years with no exceptions.

Must be in your fantasy military. My Air Force enlistment terms were either four or six years in length. The Army's are even shorter.

There are 19 jobs, mainly combat-arm specialties, which fall under the recently implemented Variable Enlistment Length program. Under VEL, Soldiers can enlist for three- to five-year VEL options.
Please try to keep yourself better informed.

Juliette and Joel Franklin ... (Below threshold)
A Different Mark:

Juliette and Joel Franklin are both right.

Modern US initial military enlistments are for 8 years. But this is almost never an 8-year tour of active duty. More typically it is 2-5 years of active duty and then 3-6 years of reserve commitment, often inactive reserve.

Subsequent re-enlistments can be for any length whatsoever.

The above applies only to enlistments and not commissions or warrants. I was an NCO and I can't speak authoritatively about those.

A further data point on the importance of High School is that once upon a time many people would drop out of HS to join the military. Today, the military likely won't let you in if you don't have a HS diploma or GED.

Mark,$50,000 per S... (Below threshold)


$50,000 per Summer??
Alaska?? Summer!! 12 weeks??
$4,000 per week?? $600 per day?? $50 per hour??

You are a liar, and a jackass.

I know lots of people who worked the boats, and the oil fields, and the canneries, and the fly-ins. The only people who made your money were the children of the owners of said industries. Spare me your common man BS.

Tsk, tsk, tsk Mark. Lawyers... (Below threshold)

Tsk, tsk, tsk Mark. Lawyers are now the equivalent of engineers, accountants and doctors??? I hate to burst your bubble Mark, but those disciplines actually require years of difficult training (except maybe accounting). Lawyers only require rote memorization of case study and critical thinking, which is missing for many lawyers. Technically, any four year college graduate should be able to think critically, however, today's college graduate is better at drinking than thinking. People that read a lot, also are very good critical thinkers. So there is not a dearth of qualified lawyer-types. But understanding Maxwell's Equations or designing a digital filter actually requires critical thinking and training. As for the blue collar job that you so nonchalantly denigrate (and thus show your arrogance), lawyers are too stupid to tackle carpentery, or masonry, or plumbing. I know of several people who have passed the bar exam without the fancy Ivy League degree too. Face it Mark, lawyering is just not that difficult. At least not anymore than, oh say, digging septic tanks.

35 of the 55 members of the... (Below threshold)

35 of the 55 members of the U.S. Constitutional Convention had legal training. This is why lawyers are the people who explain what the Consitution means. They go to school to learn how to interpret law. Regardless of how smart or stupid you are if you spend three years studying the law you're going to have a better handle on it than a similar person who has not.

Ed, you may think the majority have no idea what they are doing or they have poor reasoning, but this is more of a symptom of your ignorance to the law and how it works than an objective view of reality.

Maureen, please don't think... (Below threshold)

Maureen, please don't think I'm picking on you, but you were the most recent to echo this sentiment:

...the reason my students do not perform well is due to their home situations. If your parent or guardian didn't finish school, then they probably hold no value in an education.

I don't buy that. Decades ago, many children were sent to school by uneducated parents, who either had no means whereby to be educated, or who were forced to abandon their education to help support their family. Those kids got high-quality education by the standards of the day, in a time when there were no government-mandated standards of education, and teacher pay was abysmal--if they were paid at all.

The real problem is that back then, kids saw an education as a way to live better than their parents. Now, education is unnecessary, as kids see their parents partying, driving nice cars, buying jewelry, stereos, and other luxuries, despite the fact that they're both uneducated and unemployed.

In the same vein, why do I see Escalades on 20s, major stereo booming, parked all over the "projects?" Could it be that we've finally gotten enough government programs to give those living in "poverty" more disposable income than the middle class?

Mac Lorry said:"In... (Below threshold)
B Moe:

Mac Lorry said:

"In the end a poor person is no more responsible for their economic status than a middle class or wealthy person is for their economic status."

Who is responsible for my economic status then? Cause I'm gonna find and slap the shit out of them.

Hmmmm.Uhhh. I am ... (Below threshold)


Uhhh. I am not "Ed", ok? So whatever the argument is, count me out.

That said:

@ Devan

"To simply margininalize the issue to a matter of personal choice jusitifies inaction - and in a way constitutes a moral claim about the people in question, which is most likely insupportable."

Success or failure is absolutely a personal choice, and nothing else. If you are committed to success, you cannot fail at success. If you are committed to failure, you'll be a success at failure. Period.

America, both the myth and the reality, is entirely built upon the foundation that an individual is able to rise above his/her beginnings and achieve greatness. That doesn't come cheap and it doesn't come easy. What it does take is an absolute willingness to work hard at hard work and an understanding that success might not come for twenty or thirty years.

A prime example are the Vietnamese Boat People who arrived sick, starving, penniless and at a complete loss in a foreign land where they largely couldn't speak the language. And this isn't an isolated circumstance as I came to America as a young boy completely unable to read, write or speak english. My adoptive mother had to escort me to school so she could translate for me.

What the problem is with America's poor, and not all of them btw, is that many want wealth right now with no effort. And the only professions where you can get that, also come with the side-effect of being dead.

Frankly if you want to give America's poor children a chance, kick all the kids who are violent, disruptive or antagonistic to learning out of the schools. Let the ones that want to learn remain, and then concentrate on them.

Hmmmm."Who is resp... (Below threshold)


"Who is responsible for my economic status then? Cause I'm gonna find and slap the shit out of them."

Uhhhh. (waves hand)

These are not the droids you're looking for?

Ed, you may think the ma... (Below threshold)

Ed, you may think the majority have no idea what they are doing or they have poor reasoning,

Actually, to the contrary, I believe I have implied that even the average college graduate can think as critically as a lawyer. I've also shown that without special training, reasonably intelligent people can pass the bar exam. Can you do that and be a doctor or engineer??? Furthermore, just to drive the point home, there are lots of do-it-yourself legal document storefronts, and lots of software one can buy to do lots of legal bullshit. In addition, there is small claims court where one can be their own lawyer. Interpreting the law doesn't require a law degree, just common sense. Lawyers fuck up the law. The world could use more doctors. Could you say the same for lawyers???? Hahahahahaha!

I wrote a couple of posts o... (Below threshold)

I wrote a couple of posts on this topic myself. I think it would be a good addendum to what you are saying. Here is part 1 of a 2 parter:


Part 2:


And another one on the topic:


Couldn't agree more with you as you can see.

Dan Sherman

Mark,That's some p... (Below threshold)


That's some pretty good scratch. What were you... a lobster/king crab fisherman with the most dangerous, non-military job on the planet? ;)

As far as lawyering, I can appreciate both sides of the argument but tend to agree with Ed about the critical thinking abilities of the normal Joe being quite adequate if not technically proficient. In my experiences my attorneys have been great paper pushers. Terrific on process, narrow in scope, and rather pointedly ignorant outside of their domains. I figure many professionals exhibit such a "failing" and perhaps my contacts were unique (though they weren't cheap so you can't always go by price).

The point is that had I not done my own, parallel legal work in addition to (and not by his/her request) my hired gun's, I'd have been supremely outmatched in court. My paper pushers weren't particularly insightful but they did know procedure. That was my weakness and the reason I had to hire them in the first place. Upon reflection I probably could have done without them, but they were my insurance. Perfunctory and routine, albeit necessary, in this procedural legal obstacle course the experts have created. Their analytical skills, however, were not particularly unique. Heck, some of the exhibited skills seemed downright scary stupid. I admit, that is a very discomforting experience for which I assuredly have suffered emotional trauma. :) Hmm. Can anyone recommend a good lawyer?

This is not an indictment of all lawyers... some are quite brilliant. I just haven't met any. I doubt I can afford the ones who really are.

Just to stay topical: Don't forget to work smart while you're working hard. Many hard workers live miserable (economically unrewarding) lives despite a most honorable ethic.

And imagine, a Clinton appo... (Below threshold)

And imagine, a Clinton appointee came up with that 3-point formula!

I am the first person in my family to graduate from high school, and the one woman (my own mother included) who didn't have a child out of wedlock and/or in her teens. My mother was married three times, my father twice. A fellow researching his family tree once told me the "Shaidles" were the branch the rest of the family steered away from... :-)

I now earn more money that my (late) mother and father combined. I am a newbie home owner with good credit. I'm also a recovering alcoholic and lost some of my prime money earning years to a crippling chronic illness, now in remission.

Yet I still managed to avoid the poverty trap that surrounded me, growing up in a failing Canadian factory town.

My father was smart but lazy. My mom, God love her, was an Edith Bunker type, but a hard worker. So I think I inherited the brains from one and the work ethic of the other. Maybe that is the blind luck of the draw.

But I could have thrown it all away like my sister's did. Instead I kept my legs crossed and my head down -- and proved that those 3-points do work, even if you face other challenges along the way.

KobeClan and AD:In... (Below threshold)

KobeClan and AD:

In the summers it was Halibut and some black cod between halibut seasons. In the winters (I did one and a half winters during my 5 years fishing), it was King Crab and Tanner Crab.

And Kobe, it wasn't $4,000 per week--it was more obscene than that. A typical summer back then had two halibut trips of 10 to 14 days. I, as a typical crewmember, would be paid more than $20,000 for each trip (my best single trip was $26,000 for 10 days of actual work.) Yes, that's a single crew share. The remainder of the summer was spent scratching for black cod which sold for a much lower price back then.

The late 70's were the heyday for Alaskan fishing. Since then, seasons have been cut drastically short, and many boats are limited from entering. Meanwhile, prices for most types of seafood have not significantly risen since then. Although there is still money to be made, it is not as plentiful as it was then.

As for the intellect of lawyers, some of you missed my point. I'm not claiming to be smarter than non-lawyers, just better trained to interpret constitutional law. That should be pretty simple to understand. Hell, my 9 and 15-year-old daughters are much smarter than I, but I would not expect them to view Constitution with the same sophisitcation of someone who has studied it for 20 years.

Lawyers are too stupid to do carpentry? I have to laugh. You should see my early resume's and applications to college and law school. Off hand, I can't think of a trade I haven't done.

Ed and Kobe, thank's to your willingness to spew on matters beyond your knowledge, you've made this thread about me. My resume is pretty damned irrelevant to Jay's post, except to the extent I am like many of you who worked hard to build a life from modest beginnings.

Ed says:"Actually,... (Below threshold)

Ed says:

"Actually, to the contrary, I believe I have implied that even the average college graduate can think as critically as a lawyer. I've also shown that without special training, reasonably intelligent people can pass the bar exam."

Huh? Are you aware of a single person who received no legal training, and took no bar passing courses, who passed the bar of any state? If so, what state? In fact, what state bar would allow anyone without legal training to register for the bar exam? You're out of your mind.

By the way, I know several lawyers who are licensed physicians. Many who are registered engineers. A few with Ph.D.'s in physics and other disciplines. I know some who are also CPA's. When asked which initials were hardest earned, they universally say, "J.D." When asked about their most difficult boards, the California bar exam is listed first, New York second, and non-legal boards further down the list. Somehow I have more confidence in their opinions than someone like Ed.

Now, before I'm misinterpreted again, I'm not saying everyone who attends law school or passes the bar is smarter than those of you who were smart enough to avoid law as a profession. It does take native intelligence and hard work to get into, and out of, a good law school. But it takes a touch of common sense to pick an easier career path.

Ed: Thanks for this one, I... (Below threshold)

Ed: Thanks for this one, I love it:

"Furthermore, just to drive the point home, there are lots of do-it-yourself legal document storefronts, and lots of software one can buy to do lots of legal bullshit. In addition, there is small claims court where one can be their own lawyer."

Yep, you're right. In fact, the same can be said about most professions. Drugstores sell bandaids and cough syrup and thermometers. Home depot sells shovels and hammers and do-it-yourself books. Therefore, anybody can be their own doctor or engineer or architect. Yeah, right.

Ed, I'm curious to know about your education and occupation. You seem extremely ignorant and very bitter. What's wrong? --did your ex-wife's lawyer clean you out or something?

One important addition, IMH... (Below threshold)

One important addition, IMHO: Don't violate the law. Hell, the 4th rule is a subset of this, and I think that this addition is very important.

I come from a rural/suburba... (Below threshold)

I come from a rural/suburban area of the south where George Will's rules were followed and poverty was rare. I had little contact with inner-city poverty and the accompanying bad behaviors until I was in my 30's.

What really opened my eyes was meeting two little black girls who were my neighbors when I first moved to Philadelphia. Even though I lived alone, they assumed I had kids. And when I said I didn't, I could tell that they had NEVER before heard of a grown-up woman who didn't have kids. They actually didn't believe me.

I'm no raving feminist, but I think girl children in certain parts of the country could stand to learn the "being a mother is a choice, not a requirement" lecture.

You raise an interesting po... (Below threshold)

You raise an interesting point: Is everyone capable of avoiding the pitfalls described above? Even you conceded that, having done the "big four", you ended up with massive debt.

Isn't it possible that people who eventually end up poor, end up that way because they can't avoid one of the "big four"?

At least some -- or a substantial number of -- poor people?

I think the really salient ... (Below threshold)
alex anorak:

I think the really salient point is that in postmodern life we can't really know whether starting out poor is a financial death knell, for the reason that most of the poor neglect the one sine qua non for escaping poverty. This factor, of course, is language. I'm a lawyer. Even if I were the bleedinest lib out there, I couldn't hire most 20-something blacks because they've the English language their whole lives, out of a misdirected quest for "authenticity." This is the left's real crime - encouraging this.

Boy o boy---you guy's misse... (Below threshold)

Boy o boy---you guy's missed a whole buncha rules!

Don't get sick without insurance. About half of all bankruptcies stem from medical bills. God forbid you get hit by a truck or get cancer---you're gonna end up destiute, dead, or both.

But as a wise old neocon once said, “Then let them die, and decrease the excess population.”

Don't get born in a poor nation (or a poor section of our nation). Oddly enough, some people aren't middle-class Americans, so have little to no access to food, running water, electricity, pre-natal care, education, or any of about a million other factors that affect economic health.

It's really important to live in a country that isn't gutting pre-natal care, Head Start, and public education in its poorest cities---which, unfortunately, leaves out the United States.

Which poses something of a conundrum, I'm afraid.

Don't be a minority. "As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well. And that poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America."---GW Bush

Don't live in a place where the government is corrupt. Again, impossible to do in America, thanks to war-profittering and cronyism in the Bush regime.






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