Government By Lawyers
Reading Senator Ted Cruz’s latest mealy-mouthed lies on behalf of his owners, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, this time regarding the supposed “historical precedent” of McConnell’s hypocrisy in rushing to confirm Trump’s supreme court nominee weeks before an election, I found myself returning to the question we have all asked ourselves at one time or another: Why are so many politicians in the “democratic nations” lawyers? The true and comprehensive answer to this common curiosity is actually as plain as the nose on your face.
A politician — as opposed to either a statesman or a despot — is a person whose stock in trade is self-serving hypocrisy, the rationalization of apparent contradictions, and the veiling of simple power lust behind a rhetorical mask of “public service.” Meanwhile, law is the only modern trade whose guild members are expressly trained to lie in the most plausible ways, to misrepresent facts through a kaleidoscope of apparent logic for the purpose of persuading men to assent to the lawyer’s wishes as opposed to following their own best interests, and in general “to make the weaker argument appear the stronger,” as the ancient Athenians said of the sophists.
A statesman, in the strict (definitional) sense, is a man who pursues the interests and political well-being of the community in accordance with his principles and practical wisdom, and with minimal concern for the contingencies of either popular sentiment or immediate material gratification. Hence, while rhetorical skill and an ability to justify one’s proposals rationally are certainly assets, twisting facts and pulling the wool over other people’s eyes are hardly essential, but would rather strike the true statesman as indications of unmanliness and cowardice, thus making the lawyer’s special talents not only uncalled-for but fundamentally unstatesmanlike.
Likewise, tyrannies, in the more overt sense of the word, naturally tend not to be governed by lawyers as such. Where no public debate is brooked, and no popular consent required (unless it be for the sake of fomenting revolution, after which popular consent quickly becomes irrelevant), there is little need for such legalistic tricks as obfuscating debate technique and sophisticated rationalization.
In democracy, however — by which I mean popular or representative government that has either leaned decisively away from constitutional republicanism or never favored it in the first place — ruling the people by persuading them that they are ruling themselves, and making self-annihilating slaves of them under the superficial rubric of rational argument, are the chief means of personal advancement and social control. In such a political environment, the lawyer is the model of success. For the lawyer’s expertise, so far as public argument is concerned, is that of the debate champion: Take any position, regardless of whether one believes it, or whether one had in fact defended the very opposite position the day before, and then employ pseudo-logic and various well-practiced diversion tactics to trap one’s rhetorical opponents in publicly confused predicaments, thus satisfying one’s all-important audience that one has “gotten the better of” the opposition in this way, i.e., optically.
A society governed by professional lawyers is therefore likely to be almost as evil and covertly tyrannical as would be one ruled by professional teachers. And when those two groups form an alliance, becoming in effect the impenetrable ruling elite of the society’s power structure, that society is doomed. For in this condition, one group is tasked with propagandizing the entire community, from childhood on up, to submit to the pseudo-logic of power lust while remaining blind to the mechanisms of authoritarian diversion, and the other group, in turn, presents the public rationalizations for ever-expanding social controls and the logical case for ceding moral and intellectual independence to the government’s “expert” class, as the people’s childhood education has already inclined them to do. In such a condition, democracy tends to become a closed circle of rationalizing authoritarianism.